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China coming clean on spread of killer illness

By Hamish McDonald, Herald Correspondent in Beijing, and agencies
April 3 2003

China's wall of silence on the lethal pneumonia epidemic started to break open yesterday when health officials in southern Guangdong province reported 361 new cases of the illness and nine more deaths during March.

This appears to contradict earlier claims that the outbreak was "under control". At the same time, a team of four experts sent by the World Health Organisation was given permission to visit Guangdong, the suspected origin of the new disease, after waiting five days in Beijing for a response.

The figures bring the number of severe acute respiratory syndrome cases in China to 967 at the end of the March, with 43 reported deaths, though more cases might be added later from other Chinese provinces.

A friend of mine who just got back from Shanghai told me that he didn't see a single report about SARS when he was in China. It's stuff like this that still makes me doubt China's ability to really "play" yet.