Mon, May 12, 2003 - Page 1 News List

China's premier calls SARS task `grim'

AFP AND REUTERS , HONG KONG AND BEIJING

China and Hong Kong recorded a total of eight new deaths from SARS and more than 70 new infections yesterday, with the Chinese premier describing the task of controlling the disease as "very grim."

"Looking at the nationwide situation, SARS prevention and control work has attained certain achievements, but the situation is still grim," the Xinhua news agency quoted Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) as saying yesterday after a visit to northern China's badly hit Shanxi Province.

He said it was especially important to halt the spread of the disease in rural areas, where the majority of the population live.

"The countryside still has the channel and the hidden danger for SARS to spread. The prevention and control task is still very grim," Wen said.

China recorded five more SARS deaths and 69 new cases, the health ministry said yesterday, bringing the nationwide death toll 240 and the number of cases to 4,948.

Beijing authorities also warned that the situation there remained "grim" and urged all city officials to "fully realize" the urgency of preventing SARS' spread.

Beijing has now reported 120 SARS fatalities -- out of a global death toll of 534 -- and 2,269 confirmed SARS patients, according to the health ministry.

More than 19,000 people are also under quarantine in Beijing.

The WHO has said it needed more data from China to help stop the spread of the disease that has already sparked widespread fear and riots in the country.

"We don't have detailed information from China on about half of the cases, which would allow us to track SARS effectively," said spokeswoman Maria Cheng.

In Hong Kong, health authorities said three more people died from SARS and four new cases were recorded yesterday -- bringing the territory's death toll to 215 from 1,678 infections -- while Macau launched an emergency anti-SARS plan after its first case of the disease.

The senior minister leading Singapore's SARS fight meanwhile warned against underestimating the threat still posed by the disease, even as the city-state appeared to have brought the spread of the virus under control.

Singapore has gone two weeks without a new case of SARS and the World Health Organization is expected to declare it SARS-free if it remains clear until Sunday.

Singapore's death toll rose to 28 yesterday after a nurse succumbed to the virus. The 44-year-old woman from Tan Tock Seng Hospital -- the designated SARS hospital -- had been in intensive care since March, the Ministry of Health said.

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