Friday, May 09, 2003
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
These measures have been taken in an attempt to control the spiralling crisis following the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the country. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhang Qiyue, restrictions on the movement of people and freight had been imposed in respect of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (or the North), China's strategic ally, besides Kazakhstan, a key member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. As for Pakistan, which is China's "all-weather friend and ally'' (in Beijing's parlance), the opening of the Khunjirap point had been "postponed'', she said at a news conference in Beijing today.
Some seasonal border posts between China and Mongolia had been "temporarily closed''.
She underlined that the action had been taken in line with the international practice of closing border points during times of an epidemic or any other catastrophe.
On a separate but related front, even as the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, enunciated a new policy of placing the country's rural areas under the laser beam of anti-SARS efforts by his Government and the Communist Party, the World Health Organisation (WHO) too turned its attention in the same direction. A team of WHO experts arrived today at Baoding, a city in the Hebei province in northern China, to inspect the hospitals designated for SARS patients, it was officially announced by the Chinese authorities.
The team would "investigate'' a whole range of parameters about how the province, said to be on the frontline of rural China's potential SARS crisis, could cope with a possible danger at this stage, it was said on behalf of the WHO.
The organisation also included Taipei (in Taiwan, which China claims as its own) in the list of places to avoid non-essential travel.
Beijing's latest fact sheet on SARS read as follows: the total number of confirmed or probable cases: 4,698; the cumulative total of suspected cases: 2,648; and the death roll: 224.
Mr. Wen, who has been following a hands-on approach in facing the SARS crisis for the past several weeks, on Wednesday ordered all-out efforts to try and prevent the spread of the epidemic.
The ruling Communist Party of China began deploying its cadres in the rural areas in a big way to undertake preventive measures.
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