■ CambodiaBean soup battles SARS
Terrified that the deadly SARS virus is about to hit their country, Cambodians have been gulping down bowls of green bean soup, rumored to ward off the disease. Bean prices in markets across the country have sky-rocketed ever since word first began to spread this week that the thick sweet brew could beat the disease. Cambodians are not alone in seeking alternative cures to the illness. Chinese peasants have been letting off fire-crackers and praying to images of the Buddha to scare off the "god of plague," the official Xinhua news agency reported this week.
SARS experts visit China
Japan is to send four experts to China tomorrow to help the country battle the SARS virus, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said yesterday. Tokyo will also provide an extra ?1.5 billion (US$12.81 million) in aid, including masks and other medical supplies, to help its neighbor fight the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Kyodo news agency said. The team of experts, including two doctors, will stay in China for just under a week. The government hopes the move will help control the outbreak and help protect both Japanese and Chinese citizens.
■ Hong Kong
Hospital must own up
Health officials are demanding that a private hospital explain its slow reporting of a SARS outbreak after some patients accused the hospital of a cover-up. Hospitals are required to report both suspected and confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome to the Health Department. But the Baptist Hospital did not notify the authorities until one of its nurses was confirmed to have contracted the disease. About one in five SARS patients in Hong Kong have been medical personnel, amid allegations that hospital authorities failed to ensure staff took adequate precautions.
Airline offers compensation
Thai Airways promised yesterday to pay US$100,000 compensation to any passenger who gets infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) while flying with the national carrier. Thai Airways chairman Thanong Bidaya told reporters the airline is confident that its preventive measures, including disinfection of aircraft, are of such high standards that no passenger could fall victim to SARS. Thai Airways has been carrying out preflight medical checks of all passengers boarding its planes in countries affected by SARS.
■ United states
Yao hosts SARS telethon
National Basketball Association sensation Yao Ming of China will host a multi-national telethon to raise funds to battle SARS, the NBA announced Thursday. The three-hour telethon, co-organized by NBA TV and the Shanghai TV Great Sports Channel, is scheduled to air live in the US tomorrow from 5am to 8am (1200 to 1500 GMT). "The fight against SARS is an extremely important one, and I wanted to do something to support the fight and help overcome the disease," Yao said. "This is the least I can do to help my country in this difficult time."
Military test-fires missile
India test-fired its new Astra air-to-air missile from a ground launcher yesterday, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported. The solid propellant missile has a striking range of 25km to 40km, PTI reported. It quoted Defense Ministry sources as saying another trial was scheduled within the next two days. A man who answered the phone at the ministry refused to confirm the test but said, "something did happen." PTI said the missile was fired from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, in the east coast state of Orissa. The test occurred yesterday as US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was visiting Afghanistan, on his way to New Delhi.