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WHO issues new SARS travel advisory

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[Geneva, April 23, 2003] WHO today issued a new SARS travel advisory, warning people to refrain from taking trips to China’s Beijing and Shanxi province as well as Canada’s Toronto to reduce the risk of being infected with this deadly virus.

This WHO’s warning is in effect at least for three weeks. Earlier on April 4, WHO issued a warning to travelers not to visit China’s Guangdong province and Hong Kong. WHO now believes that these new three cities are just as risky for travelers as Guangdong province and Hong Kong.

It is reported that there are about 700 SARS cases and at least 35 related known deaths in Beijing. China’s official figure of deaths from SARS is 106, though most people expected that this number should be at least doubled because of the government’s cover-up. The international community has condemned Beijing’s effort to save face rather than save lives, despite the recent sacking of two senior governmental officials, namely the Beijing mayor and the Minister of Health.

Beijing Education Bureau has ordered to shut down all its elementary schools and high schools for two weeks to prevent the spread of SARS, and this means that 1.7 million Beijing students will be staying home and missing their mid-term exams. Some long-time China watchers hold that SARS might have gotten out of control in China and the government is now forced to take such radical measures.

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