SARS Death Toll Passes 630

The Guardian - UK
Reuters and agencies

The worldwide Sars death toll has risen to 634, with more than 7,700 people having been infected with the virus, according to figures released today. Taiwan is experiencing an outbreak of Sars, but is locked in a dispute with mainland China over World Health Organisaton membership.
China did not allow WHO epidemiologists to visit the island until earlier this month. Taiwan wants official WHO membership status, and the US is backing its push in a bid to assist the island's fight against Sars.
China is opposing Taiwan's membership of the WHO, arguing that it would imply the island has sovereignty, something that China rejects.
Cover-ups and misdiagnoses of Sars are believed to have aggravated the virus in Taiwan, where 40 people have died and 344 are infected. The island's new disease control chief today threatened to punish hospital bosses who were slow in reporting suspected cases.
Hu Jintao, the president of China, said that a special fund had been created to provide free treatment of the sick in poor countryside regions, where most of the 1.3bn population lives.
He said that the country is "improving the appropriate legal base, has created a rapid reaction system and is improving systems of warning and control" in fighting the deadly disease.
Beijing health authorities today admitted to the WHO that hospitals had failed to report "a lot" of suspected Sars patients with milder symptoms.
Meanwhile, the WHO this week said that the strict isolation of Sars patients was helping the disease to subside in most of the affected areas.
It has set a period of 20 days without a new case, twice the disease's incubation period, as the standard for declaring a country's outbreak to have been contained.
Singapore was on the verge of achieving this status when it yesterday declared its first case in 20 days. Sars has killed 28 people there, with the country's defence minister, Tony Tan, describing it as "Singapore's September 11".
In Hong Kong, a four-month-old baby girl and four adults were reported dead on Monday. They bring the death toll from Sars there to 251, with 1,714 people infected. Some 1,213 people had already been discharged, health department officials told Reuters.



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