Hong Kong efforts may have
curtailed SARS spread

Three of the China deaths and 26 new cases were in the capital Beijing, which is hit the most, the health ministry said on Saturday. Another eight people outside the capital were infected.

 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported no new cases of the deadly disease on Saturday for the first time since figures were provided regularly in March, health officials said.

 

A day earlier, WHO removed its recommendation that people should postpone all but essential travel to Hong Kong. The recommendation was issued on 2 April to minimize the risk of spreading SARS.

 

“WHO is changing this recommendation as the situation in these areas has now improved significantly,” the UN health agency’s website stated.

 

Hong Kong cheering

 

Hong Kong Financial Secretary, Antony Leung, joined festivities in a bar district, Lan Kwai, to celebrate on Friday night.

 

“Now we need to tell the world, including mainland China, that Hong Kong is a safe city,” the financial secretary told reporters shortly after WHO withdrew its travel advisory against Hong Kong.

 

Businessmen hailed WHO’s decision to drop the warning against visiting the city. “At least business travellers will come back”, said Cheung Hon-yiu. “Last night, it took me about four hours to get a customer at the airport”.

 

The government said on Saturday it had halted temporarily the import of civet meat, locally consumed, a day after a top Hong Kong scientist said there was a possibility that the SARS virus had jumped to humans from the cat-like animal. 

 

Civet cats belong to a large group of mammals that are active at night and includes the mongoose. Most civets resemble cats and have long tails and faces with thin, sharp features.

 

SARS virus could have jumped
from civet cats to humans 
WHO also withdrew its travel warning on the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, saying outbreaks of SARS there, were under control.

 

Guangdong welcomed the lifting of the travel advisory, but said it would remain alert. "Although Guangdong has effectively controlled the epidemic and attained temporary results, we absolutely cannot lower our guard, cannot slacken," Xinhua news agency quoted Governor Huang Huahua as saying.

 

Guangdong is believed to be the place where the spread of the deadly disease started in November.

 

Canada on alert

 

In Canada, health officials said the deaths of two people in Toronto on Friday could have been caused by SARS.

 

In addition, at least 20 more people may have caught the pneumonia-like virus after visiting hospitals, where five new potential cases emerged in the past 24 hours.

 

"We are assuming the worst," said Donald Low, director of

Microbiology, at Mount Sinai Hospital.

 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that any non-essential travel to Toronto be

postponed.