WHO Urges SARS Vigilance

SARS' resurgence in Toronto may be due to medical workers there letting their guard down, a newspaper reports, as the World Health Organization noted the reduction in cases in Taiwan and China does not mean the disease is over there either.

WHO put Canada's largest city back on its list of SARS-affected places on Monday, after health officials there reported eight new cases and 26 suspected cases in clusters linked to four hospitals.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reports SARS lingered in a ward of a Toronto hospital for a month as the city's case numbers dwindled. Then, when restrictions were relaxed, the disease was in place to infect again.

The re-emergence of SARS has killed two and led to the three hospitals closing and 2,200 people being quarantined, the newspaper reports.

Taiwan insisted Tuesday its SARS crisis was ebbing and faulted the World Health Organization for saying it hasn't peaked yet, while Hong Kong planned to celebrate the waning of its outbreak by building and banging the world's biggest Chinese drum.

But while new infections were decreasing just about everywhere, severe acute respiratory syndrome continued to kill some of those already infected, including two in Hong Kong and four in China.

The global toll Tuesday was at least 735, with Taiwan also reporting four new deaths. Since emerging in November in southern China, the virus has infected more than 8,200 people worldwide.

Taiwanese Health chief Chen Chien-jen said WHO officials have recently said that the island's outbreak has yet to flatten out. "We want to firmly insist that this is an inaccurate view," Chen told reporters at a daily SARS briefing.

Taiwan's second-biggest airline, EVA Airways Corp., said it will cut back flights to Japan next month because SARS continues to dampen demand for air travel.

As the number of new infections continued to drop during the past four days, Taiwanese officials have become more confident that they have a grip on SARS. They have begun urging people to resume their normal routines.

In signs that normal life was returning in the worst-hit Chinese mainland, airlines were restoring flights canceled during a plunge in travel due to SARS fears, and traffic accidents surged in Beijing as drivers returned to the streets.

In hard-hit Beijing, accidents jumped 17 percent last week from the previous week as drivers returned.

Airlines were restoring flights on the key Beijing-Guangzhou route that was slashed in half after the government tried to contain the virus by discouraging travel. The world's first SARS case was detected in Guangzhou in November.

China has been reporting falling numbers of new cases, with just nine on Tuesday, though the WHO says it is too early to declare China's outbreak under control.

A lion was killed and two tigers injured in brawls at a Chinese zoo that says it can't afford to feed them due to a slump in visitors amid SARS fears. The animals were killed and injured in fights in Xiamen Haicang Wild Animal Park in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen.

In Linzhou, a city in China's Henan province, six people were sentenced from one to three-and-a-half years in prison for leading an attack on a disease-control office after hearing it was to house SARS patients, a court official said.

Four days after the WHO lifted a SARS travel warning for Hong Kong that had been in place for more than a month, the city announced plans to build the world's biggest Chinese drum to symbolize Hong Kong's "rebirth."

"Drums are traditionally used to drive away evil spirits, illnesses and other bad things," said spokeswoman Anissa Tong of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, which plans to prepare the drum for a festival beginning in July.

The current record Chinese drum is in the eastern mainland city of Hangzhou, with a diameter of slightly more than 11 feet, Tong said. The biggest drum in the world, with a diameter of 15.49 feet, is in Ireland.

Yuen Kwok-yung, head of the University of Hong Kong's Department of Microbiology, said that an activated strain of SARS coronavirus was now ready to be tested in animals as a tentative vaccine.

The preliminary results will be known in six months, but there were no plans at present for human testing, he said in a statement.

In Singapore, animal lovers scurried to save stray cats being killed in a government cleanliness campaign aimed at combating SARS. Animal Lovers League said its members were sending the rescued animals to a shelter in neighboring Malaysia.

Two Japanese doctors were in Taiwan to study why SARS spread so quickly here — an economically developed society similar to Japan's. Japan has no confirmed SARS cases but is concerned the virus could hit there next.