Sun, May 11, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Rural Chinese erect SARS barricades

REUTERS AND AFP , HONG KONG AND BEIJING

Chinese villagers, increasingly worried about severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), dumped rotten fish on cars carrying visitors from Beijing while Canada isolated 30 people suspected to be infected by the virus.

The government said five new deaths yesterday took the toll in China to 235 and 85 new cases took infections to 4,884, as rural people who associate the disease with cities put up barricades to keep out city-dwellers.

Villagers dumped rotten fish and shrimp on about a dozen cars from the capital at a popular picnic spot outside Beijing to send city folk a message to stay away, the Beijing Times reported.

"Who lets city people come to the suburbs at a time like this? They deserved it!" the paper quoted villagers as saying.

SARS has killed more than 520 people around the world and infected almost 7,500 in nearly 30 countries. China and Hong Kong have been hardest hit with 447 deaths and more than 6,550 cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that vital Chinese data on the SARS epidemic in Beijing remain unknown, such as when and from whom patients caught the disease.

This leaves the WHO and local authorities groping in the dark, as it makes it impossible to map precisely how the virus spread in the city of 13 million, according to the organization.

In Canada, a Toronto hospital sent 30 more people into isolation after a nurse administrator developed SARS-like symptoms, but a senior doctor said he was confident she did not have the deadly illness and the quarantine would be lifted soon.

"The bottom line is we're being awfully cautious," Dr. Donald Low, chief of microbiology at Mount Sinai Hospital, which put the 30 in isolation, told reporters on Friday.

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