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WHO Removes Beijing from SARS List, Lifts Travel Advisory

The World Health Organization has decided to remove Beijing from its list of SARS-infected areas and lift its travel advisory against the city, a WHO official announced Tuesday in Beijing.

The decision took effect immediately, Shigeru Omi, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, announced at a press conference jointly held by WHO and China's Ministry of Health.

Omi said the decision to lift the advisory was based on consideration of factors including the number of current SARS cases, quality of surveillance measures and the effectiveness of prevention measures.

"WHO has decided that the travel advisory against Beijing is lifted with immediate effect," he said. "WHO concluded that the risk to travelers to Beijing is now minimum."

He also announced that Beijing was removed from the list of areas with recent local transmission, "because WHO concluded that the chain of human-to-human transmission in Beijing has been broken."

"Today's development is a milestone for the fight against SARS not only in China but also the world, because from today WHO has no more advisory against anywhere around the world," he said.

Meanwhile, the WHO official called for continued vigilance against the disease in spite of excellent achievements. "Surveillance has to be maintained for at least one year," he said. Beijing had recorded a total of 2,521 cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome and 191 deaths as of Monday, and reported no new SARS cases for consecutive 13 days. The Chinese mainland as a whole reported 5,326 SARS cases and 347 deaths as of Monday.

The travel advisory was issued on the 23rd of April in order to contain the international spread of SARS. Improvements in case detection, infection control, and the tracing and follow-up of contacts have indicated the disease is no longer a threat to international travelers to Beijing.

Life order in China back to normal
Chinese Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang said that China's life order has returned to normal and it is now safe to travel to any place in the country.

Gao told the joint press briefing that the decision made by the WHO to lift the travel advisory on Beijing and remove Beijing off its list of locally transmitting area of SARS marks that China's efforts in fighting against SARS have been recognized by the international community and the WHO, and marks the thorough lifting of travel advisory to any province or municipality on the Chinese mainland.

He stressed that the WHO decision indicates that China's efforts in fighting SARS have achieved a significant victory, and the victory is not easy.

The health official said that the country vows to establish an effective epidemic reporting system that will cover various infectious diseases.

Under that system the public health department will timely collect, analyze and report information about any disease that is highly infectious and poses severe danger to human health, according to Gao

The reporting system will also cover measures adopted by the government and its requirement in controlling diseases, it will caution the public to pay attention to self protection whenever epidemic cases are found, he said.

He said that information exchange with the World Health Organization is a very important part of the system, which is a very effective way in controlling epidemic diseases.

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