HONG KONG: China yesterday quarantined 10,000 more citizens in its desperate efforts to contain SARS as panic riots hit rural areas despite global successes in halting the spread of the virus.
Nine new deaths from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and 160 new cases were reported in the country yesterday, bringing the death toll to 206 and the total cases to 4,280 in what remains the worst-affected country.
Hong Kong reported three more fatalities, the lowest single-day death toll since April 12, fuelling optimism that the outbreak may have peaked in the territory. The total deaths from the disease in Hong Kong now stand at 187.
In Nanjing, 10,000 people were quarantined in an effort to halt the spread of SARS, while villagers in two remote areas destroyed quarantine centres and beat up officials, a sign the disease was creating social instability across the country.
“Several people have been detained as a result of the incident,” a police official in Yuhuan said.
In another incident, villagers rioted from April 25 to 28 in Linzhou city, ransacking a planned SARS quarantine centre and other medical facilities, Zhou Dawei, a local Linzhou official said.
The Linzhou riot resulted in the May 2 sacking of the director of the city's health bureau Wang Songlin and the city's infectious diseases station head Wang Yuxi, Zhou said. At least 13 people were arrested.
In Beijing, however, confidence in official government reports that SARS was being brought under control prompted many people to “prematurely” lower their guards against the virus, taking to once deserted streets.
The WHO's Beijing-based spokesman Mangai Balasegaram warned there was no room for complacency.
“There's a lot more analysis that needs to be done, and we think it's premature to make that kind of assessment,” she said.
In another development in China yesterday, theChina Daily reported that most of Beijing's 80 reservoirs have been put under isolation to prevent the SARS virus from entering the city's water supply.
It said recreation activities had been halted in the latest measures enforced by the government to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. – AFP