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Hopes Rise That China Is Gaining on SARS

May 13, 2003|From Reuters

BEIJING — China reported fewer than 100 new SARS cases Monday for the third straight day, raising hopes that it might finally be taming the deadly virus, but the U.N. health agency said it was too early to say the worst was over.

The number of new cases was also ebbing in Hong Kong, where 250,000 children returned to school Monday after a six-week break.

There also were signs of reviving confidence on Beijing streets.

But the number of deaths continued to mount in Taiwan.

China, which has been hardest-hit by the epidemic, logged 75 fresh cases, among the smallest daily totals in the three weeks since it started reporting its caseload honestly.

The lowest figure so far has been 69, reported Sunday.

Beijing accounted for 48 of China's new patients.

Late last week, the capital was still reporting 100 to 150 cases a day.

But the World Health Organization said it lacked the data needed to determine whether the tide had turned in China, where the death toll rose by 12 to more than 250 people.

More than 5,000 people have been infected in China, the bulk of the global total of more than 7,200.

"We don't feel that we can make a real conclusion about how the epidemic is evolving," said spokeswoman Mangai Balasegaram.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported a further three fatalities, raising the figure there to 218.

Despite the additional deaths, schools reopened, a sign that the hard-hit city was resuming normal life.

Children, wearing masks, returned to class.

Students underwent temperature checks at school gates and washed their hands in newly installed basins.

Despite the fuss, students said they were glad to be back.

"At the beginning, I had great fun. But after a while, I started feeling really lonely," said Ivan Chung, a student at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School.

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