BEIJING: Beijing's SARS outbreak “remains severe'' and hospitals set aside to handle the disease don't have enough beds for all suspected cases, the city's new mayor said yesterday. But Mayor Wang Qishan denied speculation that the Chinese capital would be sealed off, saying its prevention measures were adequate.
“I think the coming week will be of critical importance in monitoring the trend of development of this disease,'' Wang said at a news conference.
The health ministry reported 11 new fatalities yesterday, raising China's total to 159. Nine of those deaths were in Beijing, taking the capital's toll to 75.
There were 166 new cases of infection reported nationwide, raising the total to 3,460, the ministry said. Beijing accounted for 101 of the new cases, raising its total to 1,448 cases.
“The situation in Beijing remains severe for SARS prevention and treatment. Infections have not yet been cut off. Numbers of confirmed and suspected SARS cases remain high,'' Wang said in a written statement distributed before the news conference. “Due to a shortage of berths at designated hospitals, not all suspected SARS patients can be hospitalised there in a timely manner.''
The city has designated 21 hospitals to handle SARS cases, the statement said. It did not say how the suspected cases that were not hospitalised were being handled.
A new 1,000-bed SARS facility north of Beijing was to receive its first 195 patients yesterday, Wang said. Xinhua News Agency said the facility – built in eight days by an army of 7,000 construction workers – would be staffed by 813 military medical personnel.
The rising number of infections has prompted increasingly urgent steps to stem the spread of the virus. The Beijing government has closed public schools and ordered cinemas and other entertainment sites to close. Thousands of people have been quarantined, companies have closed temporarily and many families are staying at home.
Nationwide, the upcoming May Day vacation week has been cut short and the government has banned travel agencies from taking tourists out of their home provinces.
Wang was appointed last week, replacing a former Beijing mayor who was accused of mishandling the outbreak. China's health minister also has been replaced.
Wang promised to redouble anti-SARS efforts, adding more hospital beds and bringing in doctors and nurses from outside Beijing. He said he would set aside an office near his own for experts from the World Health Organisation.
The mayor said no cases had been reported in rural villages around the capital. He said every household there had been issued a thermometer and told to check family members daily for fever. – AP
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