Canada sees three-fold rise in SARS cases

TAIPEI: Canada saw a three-fold increase in the current SARS infections in its renewed outbreak in Toronto after redefining cases to meet international standards, while Taiwan yesterday reported its lowest daily increase in cases in three weeks. 

Meanwhile, disease fears reached remote Alaska, where a hotel refused a guest who had flown through Singapore and Hong Kong. 

Toronto's cluster of new cases emerged last week in a harsh blow to a healthcare system that appeared to have brought an initial SARS outbreak in March and April under control. Health officials have told more than 7,000 people to quarantine themselves due to possible exposure. 

Doctors initially reported 11 cases in the renewed outbreak, but that number was tripled on Thursday to 33 after Canadian authorities broadened their definition of what constitutes a 'probable case' to meet international standards. Over the past three months, 169 people have been infected and 29 have died in Canada. 

The worldwide death toll yesterday was at least 755, out of more than 8,300 people infected, the vast majority of them in Asia. 

Authorities in hardest-hit China stayed cautious despite a decline in cases on the mainland, announcing new fines for people who evade health checkpoints or enter quarantined areas without permission. 

In Taiwan, where the SARS outbreak came to a head later than in other Asian location, officials yesterday reported only seven more SARS cases, the lowest number in three weeks. 

The latest figures appeared to bolster Taiwanese officials' view that SARS was fading on the island, ranked number three in the world in deaths and infections behind China's mainland and Hong Kong. 

SARS fears reached as far as Alaska, where a Westmark hotel, owned by Holland America, refused to honour reservations of a mining executive who had travelled through Singapore and Hong Kong. The new policy was adopted at 13 of the company's hotels in Alaska and Canada. 

“With SARS, there are a lot of unknowns and there is a risk,'' hotel spokesman Erik Elvejord said. – AP  

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