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Official Describes SARS Situation  in Beijing as 'Grave'

China's prime minister sees the SARS situation in Beijing as "grave," despite progress in the fight against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao warned Beijing health officials to commit themselves to the fight against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or be "punished."

China on Tuesday reported eight deaths and 138 new cases, 70 of them in Beijing. The capital is the worst-affected city, with nearly half of China's 4,300 cases. At least 216 people have died in China from SARS.

Beijing's Communist Party spokesman Cai Fuchao said dozens of Beijing hospitals are being converted to care for SARS patients.

The U.S. telecommunications manufacturer Motorola shut down its Beijing offices after a staff member came down with symptoms related to SARS.

China is quarantining 16,000 people, while Taipei has confined more than 10,000 people to their homes to prevent the spread of the disease.

Taipei's mayor extended all home quarantines to 14 days instead of the previous 10-day isolation period.

Two epidemiologists from the World Health Organization are in Taipei investigating the SARS infections in four hospitals, where more than 100 patients are being treated. At least 10 SARS patients have died in Taiwan.

"There are three hospitals that we now understand have clusters among the health workers," said WHO spokesman Peter Cordingly. "That is what we are concerned about."

Hong Kong reported nine new SARS cases. The death toll increased by six to reach 193. The city has the world's second largest outbreak, with more than 1,600 victims.

The Philippines also reported at least seven possible SARS cases after days of no new infections.

Globally SARS has infected 6,500 people and killed more than 460.