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HK Removed from WHO SARS List

Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa confirmed Monday at a press conference that the World Health Organization has removed Hong Kong from its SARS-affected area list.

WHO's decision resulted from Hong Kong's 20th consecutive day on Sunday of no new SARS infection, which means Hong Kong has met all of the UN health agency's requirements.

Nominally, it came off the list of local transmission places Sunday because the last confirmed case in the territory was reported on June 2.

But since it was a Sunday, the World Health Organization will only review the situation at 9 am Monday Geneva time (which is 3 pm Hong Kong time) and make an announcement on its official website.

Hong Kong came off the list in style, scoring a "hat trick" of zero infections, deaths and suspected cases at the same time. It was also the seventh time the territory has recorded zero infections and deaths, as well as the 11th consecutive day of nil infections since the outbreak in early March.

The cumulative number of SARS cases remains at 1,755 and deaths at 296. So far, 1,410 patients have been discharged, including two discharged Sunday.

There are still 28 patients under treatment in hospitals, of whom 11 are in intensive care wards and another 21 who are recovering and waiting for discharge.

On the eve of "delisting", Secretary for Economic Development & Labor Stephen Ip visited the Metropole Hotel where an index patient had stayed in late February.

Apart from having lunch there, Ip also inspected the room on the ninth floor where the index patient lived to convey the message that hotels are safe places.

He disclosed that the number of mainland visitors has rebounded to an average 15,000 per day since early June and that was higher than the figures the same time last year.

He also said he would announce a series of economic relaunch measures as soon as Hong Kong was cleared as an affected area Monday.

In related news, Dr. Cheng Ha-yan from Tai Po Hospital, who died of SARS after contracting the disease from patients without obvious symptoms, was buried Sunday.

Cheng, 30, was commemorated with the highest degrees of honors -- buried in Gallant Garden, a permanent cemetery reserved for public officers who lost their lives during official duties.

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, together with a number of top government and Hospital Authority officials and healthcare workers attended the funeral service in the morning prior to the burial.

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