SINGAPORE: More than 2,400 people who could have been exposed to the deadly SARS virus at a Singapore market have been put under a 10-day quarantine, the government said yesterday amid fears the disease could be spreading beyond hospitals.
The Pasir Panjang wholesale market, which supplies at least 70% of Singapore's vegetable needs, was shut down on Saturday after a man working there was diagnosed with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
“MOH (Ministry of Health) has now imposed a 10-day quarantine on all those who had worked or conducted business at Pasir Panjang wholesale vegetable market between April 5 and April 19,” Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said at a news briefing.
Fourteen people with SARS have died in Singapore, making it among the countries worst hit by the killer virus.
Mah said the market “will remain closed during this period” and there “will be a significant disruption” to vegetable supplies.
In BEIJING, fears over the scale of the SARS crisis deepened as the global death toll from the virus climbed steadily upwards, claiming at least 10 more lives yesterday.
After admitting more than 700 confirmed SARS cases in Beijing on Sunday, China's health ministry increased the toll as the orders for full disclosure kicked in.
Eight new deaths were reported in China through various state media and
official channels in the provinces of Guangdong, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, and the cities of Tianjin and Beijing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), citing ministry of health statistics, said 132 new cases around the country were reported on Sunday, bringing the national tally to 1,959.
Official figures from WHO and the health ministry increased China's death toll by four to 86. A further four deaths were reported in official media.
The spread of the disease has fuelled concerns that SARS is gaining a foothold in every corner of China.
China yesterday formally sacked Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong, who had been expected to lose his job after being stripped of his high-ranking position in the ruling Communist Party on Sunday.
Health minister Zhang Wenkang, who was also removed from party position at the weekend, is expected to be formally sacked as health minister.
In Hong Kong yesterday, six more people died, down from a daily record of 12 deaths announced on Saturday, taking the SARS death toll to 94.
Another 22 new cases were reported, with the number of cases reaching 1,402.
Hong Kong underwent a massive clean-up at the weekend with government officials and residents disinfecting parks, commercial buildings, housing estates and streets in a bid to wipe out the virus.
The latest figures pushed the global death toll to 217. More than 4,000 people are confirmed or suspected to have been infected by the disease in around 30 countries.
In addition to China and Hong Kong, deaths have been recorded in Singapore (14), Canada (14), Vietnam (5), Thailand (2) and Malaysia (1).
The Philippines and Taiwan reported yesterday what could be their first deaths from SARS, with tests being carried out to confirm the c ause of death, and Macau announced its first suspected SARS case. – Agencies