The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Toronto, Canada SARS-free and removed the city from its list of affected areas, adding that it would declare Taiwan free of SARS this week "if no unexpected events occur."
Taiwan reported no new cases of SARS for the 17th consecutive day yesterday, bringing it another step closer to the 20-day point that will make it officially SARS-free in the eyes of the WHO.
"If no unexpected events occur, the last two areas in the world -- Toronto and Taiwan -- to have experienced local transmission of SARS will be declared later this week to have broken the chain of person-to-person transmission," the WHO said in a statement posted on its Web site.
"This achievement will mean that the SARS coronavirus is no longer thought to be circulating in the human population," the WHO said.
Government health officials expect the nation to be delisted by the WHO on Sunday, unless new infections occur.
The Center for Disease Control yesterday dropped two cases from its list of SARS after a review, reducing the number of infections to 676.
The death toll from the pneumonia-like epidemic stood steady at 84, and 34 people were still in hospital with the disease, the center said.
In related news, the number of arrivals from China is expected to increase from tomorrow, when the government will fully lift its "B category" quarantine requirement for arrivals from China, the Cabinet's SARS Prevention and Relief Committee said yesterday.
As of yesterday, 18 of the 34 SARS patients in hospital needed intensive care treatment, the committee reported, adding that 85 people who had close contact with SARS patients remain under "category A" quarantine, while 12,607 people who had returned from SARS-affected areas were under "category B" quarantine.
The Department of Health said that although Taiwan might be removed by the WHO from its list of areas with local transmissions soon, the Cabinet's committee will continue to operate for an additional 10 days.