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SARS Promotes Health Consciousness among Chinese People
Applying red disinfectant soap on his hands and washing repeatedly, Li Rui, a 23-year-old estate agent, is carefully following expert advice -- wash hands thoroughly and for at least 30 seconds every time to prevent SARS.

Li, who has lived in Beijing for two years, said he never believed he would wash his hands so much, let alone sterilize his apartment twice a day.

Nowadays, many Chinese are following suit as the SARS outbreak promotes health consciousness among 1.3 billion Chinese people, enhancing their health awareness and influencing their lifestyle.

The Chinese media is giving unprecedented attention to unhealthy practices like spitting in public, and the country's major cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, have increased penalties for people who spit.

"In my community, the use of old garbage channels have been banned for fear of the spread of SARS and those who litter garbage will be fined and ordered to sweep the community floor," Li said.

Li rented an apartment in the community and has had his health declaration form examined twice recently by the neighborhood committee.

In Beijing, sterilization, garbage clean-up, and residential health status supervision are practiced in every community.

Meanwhile, electronic finance has become popular, as people become accustomed to using their credit cards instead of cash transactions, for fear that cash can spread SARS.

Outdoor activities have gained popularity in Beijing at weekends. Every public park is filled with people seeking fresh air, playing badminton or doing exercises.

"Restaurants have opened again and all waiters are wearing surgical masks and gloves when serving food," said Wu Yuechao, a 24-year-old employee in a software company.

People's spending habits are changing too. Nowadays, Chinese people prefer to buy fresh green vegetables, disinfectant and body-building equipment. A bicycle shop in Beijing sold more than 6,000 bikes a day and some healthcare books have become bestsellers.

(Xinhua News Agency May 27, 2003)

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