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Migrant workers are fleeing Beijing in fear of SARS

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[Beijing, April 24, 2003] Tens of thousands of migrant workers and non-local students are fleeing Beijing in attempt to escape the SARS crisis. Some major hospitals including Beijing University’s hospital have been shut down for SARS inspection.

Now the Beijing railway station is congested with fleeing visitors, migrant workers, and out-of-town students to escape the SARS infection. Most of these migrant workers are construction workers from nearby rural areas, seeking to earn some cash in Beijing. Some come from remote regions where economic reform has done them more ill than good because of corruptions by local officials or natural disasters.

One scholar from the Public Health Department of Beijing University said, “Beijing has enough hospital beds, but they can’t receive such SARS patients because those beds are not isolated for infectious patients—this is just too dangerous for other patients.” An official from WHO suggested that as a tightly controlled society China should take advantage of this characteristic by tracing and isolating those infected SARS patients.

Most local Beijing residents complain that they have not been informed by the government of the seriousness and the extensive spread of SARS in China as well as of the preventive measures.

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