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Beijing Implements Emergency Measures to Contain SARS

Emergency measures are keeping most Beijing residents at home this May Day, as China scrambles to react to the spread of atypical pneumonia.

Chinese travel on this May Day holiday is down dramatically from last year. China has slashed the week-long Labor Day holiday to a long weekend, and imposed travel restrictions to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

In Beijing, sports facilities, bars, and public gathering places are closed on government orders, and a movie marathon is running on state-owned television to encourage families to stay home.

The World Health Organization says mainland China is the only country where atypical pneumonia appears to still be spreading uncontrollably. On Thursday, the government reported 187 new cases of SARS, bringing its total number of patients to more than 3,600. There were 11 more deaths, raising the toll above 170.

Hong Kong on Thursday reported 11 new cases, and five new deaths. WHO experts say the worst may be over in the territory, but they are investigating reports that 12 SARS patients were discharged from hospital, and then apparently relapsed. Hong Kong Health director Margaret Chan says those patients are being watched closely. "These patients are readmitted into hospital, and taken care of by clinician, until they are well, before they are discharged," she said.

Hong Kong has seen 1,600 SARS cases, and 162 deaths.

Singapore is reporting one new death from SARS. The city-state is ordering primary school students to carry state-issued digital thermometers in their schoolbags, so they can check their temperatures twice a day. Singapore has reported 25 deaths from SARS.

In his May Day address, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told Singaporeans to brace for higher unemployment as an after-effect of the disease. Singapore Airlines is ordering cabin crews to take two weeks of unpaid leave every two months until March of next year, because passenger levels have plunged since the SARS outbreak began more than a month ago.

Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan is reporting two more SARS deaths, bringing the island's total death toll to three. India is reporting 10 new SARS cases.

Worldwide, SARS has killed almost 400 people, and infected more than 5,600.