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New SARS Cases Reported in China and Hong Kong - 2003-04-22


The number of SARS cases in Asia continues to climb as new cases arise in both China and Hong Kong. Officials say that measures to protect healthcare workers have not been adequate.

Under the new spirit of openness, China reported more than 150 new cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The death toll also rose by at least five, to 97.

China reports more than 2,100 SARS cases, about half the global total, of least 4,000 patients. There have been at least 230 SARS deaths worldwide.

Liu Jianchao, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman calls Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome "a catastrophe new to mankind."

Despite the rise in cases, Chinese authorities have backed away from an earlier decision to cancel most of the seven day holiday to mark Labor Day on May 1. Workers will have five days off.

But the government is discouraging people from traveling during the holiday, to avoid spreading the disease to impoverished rural areas, where health care facilities are limited.

A team of experts with the World Health Organization is visiting hospitals in Shanghai. The city has reported few SARS cases, raising suspicions that officials there are covering up patient numbers, as was the case in Beijing. On Sunday, the national government fired China's health minister and the Beijing mayor for mishandling the SARS outbreak.

In Hong Kong, the city's leader, Tung Chee-hwa, thanked health care workers for their dedication in fighting SARS.

Mr. Tung said he will ask a government body to earmark an estimated $25 million for nurses and doctors who wish to seek extra training.

Hong Kong has seen the highest number of fatalities, and its death toll rose by five, to 99.

There were also 32 new cases, 10 of them health care workers. More than 20 percent of Hong Kong's 1,434 SARS patients are health workers.

Dr. Yeoh Eng-Kiong, Hong Kong's health secretary, said efforts to protect health care workers have been inadequate. He said some health workers caught the virus while using machinery to help SARS patients breathe.

Dr. Yeoh also said that in some cases health workers failed to recognize that patients hospitalized for other ailments were also infected with SARS.

Elsewhere in Asia, the second probable SARS death has been reported in Malaysia, which has seen only six possible cases so far.

In Singapore, the supply of fresh vegetables has been disrupted as 2,400 workers at a vegetable market were quarantined after one worker came down with SARS.

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