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Now China press blares SARS warnings

The campaign aims to allay public anxiety fuelled by endless rumours and reports after domestic coverage ignored the flu-like virus for weeks and excited worldwide ire.
Now China press blares SARS warnings
Jonathan Ansfield, Reuters

Beijing, April 14: After a near blackout on coverage of SARS, China is orchestrating a media blitz to convince its citizens to adopt healthier lifestyles in hopes of fending off the virus.

State television warns people against smoking and drinking, official pamphlets urge them to scrub their hands after cleaning their noses, and official Web sites advise keeping surgical face masks on hand, just in case.

"I think it's a sign that the Chinese government is taking this seriously," Jim Palmer, spokesman for a WHO team visiting Beijing, said of the publicity drive. The campaign aims to allay public anxiety fuelled by endless rumours and reports after domestic coverage ignored the flu-like virus for weeks and excited worldwide ire.

"Wash hands after sneezing, coughing and cleaning the nose," advises a pamphlet featuring cartoon characters sneezing on the subway and quivering with chills.

Beijing is distributing 1.5 million copies of the brochure on SARS transmission, detection and prevention, 50,000 of them in English.

State television giant CCTV listed 10 Health Ministry recommendations on its noon newscast, among which was "Number Six: limit dinner parties, do not smoke, drink less".

The list, circulated on the Internet, said people should carry face masks but need not wear them always only "if you show unusual symptoms, or you detect unusual symptoms in someone around you".

Official news agency Xinhua said China had a total of 1,418 SARS cases and 64 deaths as of April 13. Beijing had nine new cases, taking the toll in the capital from 22 to 31, it added. Now SARS stories make front page headlines in state newspapers, relegating news of war in Iraq to the inside.

To be sure, reports put an upbeat spin on the outbreak, reflecting the government line that China has "effectively contained" the disease.

The front page of Monday's Beijing Youth Daily featured Premier Wen Jiabao's latest battle cry against the disease.

Another front page item said a Beijing health official rejected as "lies" a Chinese Internet rumour that 143 people had died in the capital of an unknown epidemic.

The bad news was on page three: the World Health Organisation still lacks evidence to pinpoint the cause of the disease, thought to stem from a new strain of coronavirus, best known for causing the common cold.

Beijing papers also neglected to mention the official toll and caseload from the disease.

Some doctors say actual numbers in Beijing are much higher than those officially reported. The newspapers reeled out other statistics instead.

By Friday, the city had sterilised 17,144 public vehicles and 23,000 square metre of floor space at capital airport; it had a team of 2,500 people making checks door-to-door and a 24-hour disease hotline fielding queries, the papers said.

Cases now total 1,418
BEIJING: Over 100 new SARS cases were reported in China between Friday and Sunday, taking the number of people infected with the deadly virus nationwide to 1,418. The wealthy coastal province of Fujian was on the SARS map for the first time with three cases and nine more were reported in Beijing, taking the number infected in the capital to 31, the official Xinhua news agency said.

HK may seek China's help
HONG KONG: Hong Kong's hospital chief said on Monday he would not rule out asking Beijing to send doctors to the territory to help fight the deadly respiratory disease as the number of new infections climbed. Hong Kong said seven more people had died from the disease, the highest number reported in a day since its outbreak erupted early in March. Forty more have been infected, bringing the total to 1,190, the government said.

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required 14.Apr.2003 19:53

Winston Churchill

"New methods of attack -- electronic, 'non-lethal', biological -- will be more widely available ... combat likely will take place in new dimensions, in space, cyberspace, and perhaps the world of microbes ... advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool"


"The SARS outbreak carries some important lessons for the world community. Membership in international organizations alone does not bring about responsible, let alone humane, behavior from Chinese authorities. Hong Kong is getting more and more like the mainland. SARS is one reason the U.S. cannot ignore the consequences of Hong Kong's decline. People infected in Hong Kong are believed to have spread the disease worldwide; the U.S. has well over one hundred cases. The U.S. should declare itself in favor of democracy there and back a constitutional convention in which Hong Kong's people choose their own future. Finally, democratic Taiwan should be admitted to the WHO. This is not only a matter of international fairness, which in our view would be enough, but also of international health and safety."