TAIPEI: Taiwan brushed off a sharp rise in SARS cases yesterday as authorities in Canada quarantined 2,000 more people in a desperate effort to contain a fresh outbreak of the killer disease.
Taiwan reported 50 new cases of SARS, but officials quickly insisted the figure did not conflict with a World Health Organisation assessment that the island's epidemic was in decline.
Taiwan's Centre for Disease Control said 10 of the new infections had been recently reported while 40 had arisen from the reclassification of cases previously listed as “suspected.”
The WHO said in an update on Wednesday that the disease now appeared to be in retreat in Taiwan, which has registered 81 fatalities from 660 infections of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
Over 750 people have died and more than 8,000 have been infected with SARS worldwide since the disease first emerged in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in November last year.
The mood in Asia has brightened substantially in recent weeks, however, with steadily declining figures in both China and Hong Kong –the two hardest hit areas – fuelling optimism that the worst is over.
Hong Kong, which saw a WHO advisory warning against travel to the city lifted last Friday, recorded only two new cases and three fatalities on Thursday. The deaths brought the total number of fatalities to 273 from 1,732 cases.
China meanwhile reported three cases and two deaths yesterday, marking a new low in official figures.
Canada's death toll rose to 29 after two more patients from a newly discovered SARS cluster in Toronto died.
The latest cluster came as Toronto health officials were seeing SARS cases reduced to single digits and three weeks after the city was removed from a WHO list of areas to avoid travelling to due to the disease.
Now, more than 5,000 people, including 2,000 associated with one school linked to an affected hospital who were isolated on Wednesday, are in quarantine as a precautionary measure to see if SARS symptoms reappear.
Toronto may raise its number of probable SARS cases to 60 or 70, from 12, as it reclassifies how it counts suspect cases in line with WHO recommendations, one of the doctors leading the fight against the respiratory disease said yesterday. – AFP/Reuters
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