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SARS Under Control; Life as Normal - Health Minister(April 04,2003 )
2003/11/03

Beijing is a safe place to live in and visit as the "atypical pneumonia" - also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) - has been brought under effective control, the nation's health minister said Thursday.

"The daily living and work order of the Chinese people, including residents in Guangdong, is as normal," Zhang Wenkang said, stressing that various preventive measures will be undertaken to protect the health of expatriates living, visiting or attending meetings in the capital. The minister, who held a press conference Thursday, appealed to some foreign organizations and companies which had cancelled their staff's trips to China to re-consider their decisions.

Also Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao urged some countries not to be misled by inaccurate information and judge the situation correctly so as not to disturb normal exchanges with China. Zhang said China has experience in preventing and treating the disease, and the number of SARS cases is falling dramatically.

He said 1,190 SARS cases had been reported by March 31, with 1,153 in South China's Guangdong Province. There has been 46 deaths from the disease on the Chinese mainland and 40 in Guangdong. Among all of the cases, 934 people had been cured and released from hospital - 911 in Guangdong, eight in the nearby Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and one in Beijing.

All the cases in Hunan, Shanxi and Sichuan provinces have been cured.  Of the 210 patients still in hospital, six are in a serious condition and the rest are improving.

In Guangdong, since the beginning of March, the reported number of cases has been falling, according to Zhang, who has just returned from
Guangdong.

According to statistics from Zhang's ministry, there were 361 SARS cases reported in the province in March, down 47.5 per cent from February.

Zhang said a series of comprehensive preventive treatments used by Guangdong's medical staff have now been summarized to guide doctors and nurses in other locations in China.

Backed by the guidelines, health authorities in other regions have strengthened their monitoring and preventative methods, ensuring all people identified as having SARS are hospitalized and isolated, preventing the disease from spreading. Zhang said all of the non-Guangdong cases, including 12 in Beijing, were imported from other areas.

He said Guangdong was the first place in the world to find the "atypical pneumonia," but there was no evidence that the disease originated from the province.

Zhang said the cause of SARS was still unknown and people who had never been to Guangdong were still contracting the disease.

Chinese experts have found chlamydia in five bodies of SARS victims in Guangdong. Zhang said some overseas experts had announced that the disease was caused by various other viruses.

Zhang said it is imperative to find the cause of the disease, and global efforts and further co-operation from experts around the world should be made to bring it under control.

The minister said China had been reporting daily to the WHO since the start of the month, adding the ministry will brief the media on the latest SARS situations in a timely fashion.

Zhang said after the outbreak of SARS, China has been co-operating with the WHO. Three groups of WHO experts have been invited to China to discuss etiology, diagnosis and control measures with their Chinese counterparts.

He said the WHO had given full recognition to the work done by Chinese health authorities and experts.

Their first phase of co-operation in Beijing had concluded, the health minister said, adding the second phase in Guangdong was under way - another team of WHO experts arrived in the province yesterday. Zhang said China is willing to share its SARS experience with other countries.

The minister told the press that an international symposium proposed by himself and approved by Shigeru Omi, regional director of the WHO's Western Pacific Region, will be held in Hong Kong soon to look for better ways to combat the disease in the future.

The Ministry of Health had passed its experience against SARS to Hong Kong through various channels, and has promised to make further medical co-operations with the health authority of the region, where 708 cases, including 16 deaths, had been reported to the WHO by April 2. Zhang said the Chinese Government had paid great attention to the SARS situation in Taiwan Province and was willing to provide any possible support it could.

He also refuted the claims by some island leaders that the central government disregarded the health of people in Taiwan.

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