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SLUG: 2-304670 Beijing / SARS
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=06/24/03

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=BEIJING SARS - L

NUMBER=2-304670

BYLINE=JIM RANDLE

DATELINE=BEIJING

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The World Health Organization says efforts to control Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome are working and SARS no longer makes it dangerous to travel to Beijing. But, as V-O-A's Jim Randle reports from the Chinese capital, a Chinese health official says the struggle against SARS is not over.

TEXT: The W-H-O's top official for Asia, Dr. Shigeru Omi, announced Tuesday that the advisory warning against travel to Beijing is no longer needed.

// OMI ACT ///

After careful analysis, W-H-O has concluded that risk to travelers is now minimal.

/// END ACT ///

The move now means there are no SARS-related travel warnings anywhere in the world, after nearly four months.

The World Health Organization also took Beijing off the list of places where SARS has been transmitted recently. Now, the W-H-O is concerned about possible new transmissions of the disease in Taiwan and Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Omi said the decision to end the SARS warnings for Beijing was based on several factors, including the effectiveness of prevention measures, the number of cases and the quality of surveillance.

But he said at news conference here in Beijing that doctors and the public will have to be on watch against the sometimes-deadly respiratory disease for at least a year.

SARS was first reported in southern China last

November. It spread to Hong Kong in March and around the world, infecting more than 84-hundred people in 30 countries and killing more than eight hundred of them. The worst toll was in China, with about two thirds of the infections and nearly half the deaths.

China's executive vice minister of health, Gao Qiang, calls the end of the travel advisory a victory but cautions the fight against SARS will continue.

/// GAO IN CHINESE, ESTABLISH AND FADE UNDER ///

The vice minister also urges China's people to remember the health workers, nurses and doctors who fought the outbreak, particularly those who died in the struggle.

The end of the W-H-O warnings is seen as crucial to rebuilding tourism in China and returning life to normal. At its peak in April and May, the Chinese government shut schools, movie theaters and bars in cities with SARS cases. At one point, thousands of people were under quarantine, in an effort to halt the outbreak.

Throughout Asia, the SARS outbreak caused economic havoc, with airlines cutting thousands of flights, and hotels and restaurants laying off thousands of workers. Some companies were forced to temporarily close when workers were found to have SARS, while governments, businesses, and households spent millions of dollars to fight the disease. (Signed)

NEB/HK/JR/KPD



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