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2 Billion Yuan Pledged to Fight SARS
China will create a national task force to combat the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and set up a 2 billion yuan (US$243 million) fund for the prevention and control of the disease nationally, it has been revealed.

The moves were taken by the State Council at its executive meeting, held yesterday, as Beijing authorities prepared to close schools in the city for a fortnight.

The central government decided to set up the task force, known as the SARS Control and Prevention Headquarters of the State Council, to co-ordinate national efforts to fight the disease.

Vice-Premier Wu Yi was appointed commander-in-chief of the task force and Hua Jianmin, a State councilor and secretary-general of the State Council, was designated deputy commander-in-chief.

Late yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced another 147 cases of SARS had been detected in the Chinese mainland in the 24 hours until 8 pm Tuesday.

The daily count included nine deaths and 237 suspected cases, bringing the Chinese mainland's total so far to 2,305. Of the total, 106 people have died and 517 medical staff have been infected.

Meanwhile, 1,231 people have been discharged from hospitals and 1,093 suspected cases have been reported around the country.

Beijing has 105 new cases and seven more people have died.

East China's Jiangxi and Anhui provinces yesterday reported their first suspected cases.

The newly-announced national fund will be used to finance the treatment of farmers and destitute urban residents infected with SARS, in addition to upgrading county-level hospitals, purchasing SARS-related medical facilities in central and western China, and for research programs into the virus, according to the Ministry of Finance.

To upgrade disease control institutions in central and western regions, the Chinese Government will allocate another 900 million yuan (US$109 million) of national bonds.

The central government has also allocated 600 million yuan (US$73 million) for the initial phase of the China Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

In a major move, Beijing - which had up until Tuesday reported 693 cases and 782 suspected cases, as well as 35 deaths - will close schools for two weeks from today.

(China Daily April 24, 2003)

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