China Extends Closing of Schools Amid Outbreak

From Associated Press

Beijing will keep elementary and middle schools closed for an additional two weeks to help prevent the spread of SARS, the official New China News Agency said today.

China also decided to let the World Health Organization visit Taiwan in its fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome, putting aside politics after reports that the island’s SARS cases doubled in a week.

China had rejected direct help from WHO for the island, where at least 102 people have been diagnosed with SARS and eight have died.

Taiwan became self-governing after civil war in China in 1949, and the Beijing government claims the island as its territory. Protocol prohibited WHO teams from heading to Taiwan to see how SARS is spreading because its parent body, the United Nations, does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country.


Nine more SARS deaths were reported Saturday in mainland China and nine in Hong Kong.

Announcing the decision to keep schools in Beijing closed, the news agency said authorities planned to hold correspondence classes using TV broadcasts and the Internet.

The schools, which were closed about two weeks ago, had been scheduled to reopen Wednesday providing the outbreak was under control.

Hong Kong’s health chief acknowledged that officials “weren’t speedy enough” in their response to the SARS outbreak, but said it was because little was known about the disease when it emerged.