The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the worst of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak appears to be over in Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada, while Vietnam has become the first country to contain the highly infectious respiratory disease.
But SARS is spreading in China even as the government takes increasingly aggressive steps to halt the disease, said David Heymann, the chief of communicable diseases for WHO.
Heymann, who is in Bangkok to attend an emergency ASEAN summit on SARS today, said the situation is worrisome in China.
"In China, as you know, we are receiving more and more reports of cases and it doesn't appear it has peaked as far as spread" of the disease is concerned, Heymann told reporters.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto are having fewer cases every day and Vietnam has reported no new SARS victims, the WHO said.
"It appears that the outbreak has peaked in those countries,"Heymann said.
There were eight new fatalities in China and five in Hong Kong reported yesterday, raising the worldwide death toll for severe acute respiratory syndrome to at least 332. SARS has sickened around 5,000 people in more than 20 countries.
Asian governments kept up the fight with quarantines and travel restrictions.
The WHO lifted all travel advisories yesterday for Vietnam, which had five deaths from SARS after the virus spread in February through Hanoi's only international hospital.
Sixty-three people contracted the virus in Vietnam. But the Hanoi French Hospital was cordoned off on March 11, a move credited with slowing the rate of infection and keeping SARS from spreading beyond its doors.
"The WHO would like to congratulate Vietnam on being the first country in the world to contain SARS," Pascale Brudon, the WHO representative in Vietnam, said at a news conference in Hanoi.