Restless efforts are being made in China to minimize the effect brought by the newly confirmed SARS case in Guangzhou for a safe and sound Spring Festival, which officially begins on January 22.
The "flood tide'' of transportation which occurs during every Spring Festival, is earlier than normal this year after starting yesterday.
More than 140 million people are expected to move around by train during the 40-day period.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced two days ago that so far there is no evidence of any severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic and that China is still a safe place to travel. It is unnecessary for the country to adjust the travel scheme for the Spring Festival.
However, doubts about the deadly epidemic's circulation are still causing concern among certain parties. Issues include the sources of the virus, details about its transmission and the unavailability of vaccines.
Governments at all levels are taking various actions to prevent the possible spread of the SARS virus during the "flood tide.''
Seven departments under the State Council including the ministries of health, railways, and the General Administration of Civil Aviation, have jointly issued a document to strengthen healthcare and quarantine work to prevent the SARS virus from spreading.
For example, all passengers coming and going from Guangzhou are being asked to take temperature checks and anyone with a temperature over 38 C will be immediately put under further medical observation.
Meanwhile, all trains in the country are being disinfected every day now, and all workers on trains must ensure they are not suffering from any symptoms whenever they start their work, an official from the Ministry of Railways who declined to give his name told China Daily yesterday.
Sources from railway stations said that some 90,000 passengers boarded trains yesterday.
Fifteen temporary trains have been added in Guangzhou railway station to ease the daily passenger flow pressure.
It was estimated that over 1.9 million passengers would be transported through Guangzhou during the 15 days before the coming of the Spring Festival.
So far, thanks to the proper handling of the single case, people on the move throughout the nation are generally quite calm.
However, except for the increasing amount of people in a hurry to return home for the Lunar New Year family gathering, how much effect the case has brought to the tourism industry is still unknown.
Insiders from travel agencies and other tourism agencies generally say that the single case will not have a serious effect on the tourism market.
(China Daily January 8, 2004)