- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

BEIJING — Police in Taiwan went house-to-house to enforce SARS quarantines yesterday, while railway authorities in China installed thermal scanners at some train stations to check passengers for fevers in an effort to keep the disease from spreading over their vast rail networks.

“The infectious outbreak is our call to arms. Time is lives,” said a front-page article in the newspaper Beijing Daily.

The World Health Organization yesterday removed Toronto from the list of hot spots for severe acute respiratory syndrome, because at least 20 days have passed since the last domestically infected SARS patient was isolated or had died. WHO said the last case was isolated April 20.

As regional airlines cut more flights, the United Nations issued a new prediction about the economic fallout of the SARS outbreak — 5 million job losses in the global tourism sector this year, with Asia hit the worst.

The number of deaths worldwide from the flulike disease rose yesterday to at least 588. Eight new SARS deaths were reported in East Asia: five in Beijing, two in Hong Kong, one in Taiwan.

The regions with the worst SARS outbreaks showed signs of optimism. China yesterday announced its lowest one-day increase in new SARS cases in weeks — 55 — raising its total to 5,124. Health officials are trying to prevent a new surge of the disease in China’s poor countryside.

WHO investigators arrived yesterday in the central province of Henan to assess the impact of SARS on people with AIDS, spokeswoman Mangai Balasegaram said. Thousands of villagers in Henan were infected with HIV through unhygienic blood-selling operations.

In Hong Kong — which reported nine new infections, the 11th straight day of single-digit increases — scientists credited quarantines for breaking the chain of transmission. University of Hong Kong researchers say the territory’s outbreak is losing momentum and should dwindle by June or July and die out by October.

But Taiwan faced a worsening outbreak, and Singapore, which hoped to deem itself SARS-free as early as this week, may have experienced a setback amid reports of a possible outbreak at its largest mental-health facility, officials said.

The Institute of Mental Health was sealed off and all 1,800 patients and 1,600 workers quarantined after 37 persons there began showing symptoms Friday.

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