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Guangdong Safer than Thought
World Health Organization doctors investigating the cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome in southern China said yesterday that initial government figures show that fewer people in hard-hit Guangdong Province are getting sick.

The WHO's assessment came as the national health authorities insisted China is a safe place to live and to visit.

"The number of cases is going down," WHO team spokesman Chris Powell said in Guangzhou, provincial capital of Guangdong. "There are still new cases - which is very sad - but the number of cases from what we've seen is going down."

Powell said the team had been provided "very detailed information" about people in Guangdong who got SARS, how they got sick and what kind of treatment they received. The team expects to stay in the province until Tuesday and hopes to interview patients and doctors directly.

"There are many, many steps before you figure out where a disease started," Powell said. "What's important now is we have a flow of information."

Health Minister Zhang Wenkang assured the world that it is "safe to live in China."

"I say to you here, as Minister of Public Health, that the epidemic of atypical pneumonia has been put under effective control," Zhang said at a news conference in Beijing yesterday.

He implored people who had canceled travel to China to reconsider.

According to the health minister, by March 31, a total of 1,190 SARS cases had been reported in inland areas of China, with 1,153 in Guangdong; 12 in Beijing; 11 in Guangxi; seven in Hunan; four in Shanxi; and three in Sichuan.

Altogether 934 SARS patients had been cured and released from hospital, with 911 in Guangdong, one in Beijing, eight in Guangxi, seven in Hunan, four in Shanxi, and three in Sichuan.

Of the 46 deaths from SARS, 40 were in Guangdong, 3 in Beijing, and 3 in Guangxi. Of the 210 patients still in hospital, six are in serious conditions and the rest are improving.

He said patients in Guangdong were responding to a combination of treatments. "Our experience in Guangdong shows that a combination of Western and traditional Chinese medicine works best," he said.

In Guangzhou yesterday, the streets were bustling. Mom-and-pop shops were doing brisk business, public parks and malls were filled and traffic was moving slowly. Only a handful of people were wearing masks.

"Everything is normal," said Yang Yongmo, a taxi driver. "There's nothing to be scared of. It's harder to get sick than you think."

Hong Kong yesterday extended an emergency school closure because the spread of SARS has not been contained, and officials said the death of a 56-year-old man yesterday brought the territory's fatality toll to 17 from SARS. Hong Kong reported another 26 SARS cases yesterday.

(Xinhua News Agency April 4, 2003)

Efforts Lead to Decreasing Atypical Pneumonia Cases
State Council Discusses Atypical Pneumonia
Guangdong Reports Progress in Combating Atypical pneumonia
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