From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Fri 11 Apr 2003 - 13:49:12 GMT

  • Next message: Grant Callaghan: "RE: SARS!"

    I read that the diease may have started around last November in China. Did China undereact in the early stages of the epidemic?

    Scott Chase

    There is some controversy on that subject. Here is a story from the South China Morning Post that paints a pretty good picture of how that is playing out. I would keep in mind that anything the government denies is probably true.

    Friday, April 11, 2003 Mainland officials deny hiding the true figures

    ALLEN T. CHENG in Beijing Mainland health officials yesterday denied allegations that they have not fully disclosed statistics on the full extent of the atypical pneumonia crisis on the mainland.

    Ma Xiaowei, the deputy minister of health, told a press conference official statistics were accurate and reflected a full account of all hospitals on the mainland, including military facilities.

    Up until Wednesday, Mr Ma said there were a total of 1,290 infections on the mainland, with 55 deaths, and 22 cases in Beijing with four deaths.

    However, Mr Ma admitted that the mainland's vastness made it difficult to define and pass on information about severe acute respiratory syndrome

    "We have made a great effort in getting the word out on this disease and over time, and through proper measures, we should do an even better job reporting on Sars," said Mr Ma.

    But Jiang Yanhong, 72, a retired director of general surgery at the People's Liberation Army Hospital 301 in Beijing, accused officials of under-reporting the total number of Sars cases as well as the total number of deaths in Beijing.

    Dr Jiang maintained that 10 people had died in Beijing from a total of 146 cases of infections in three major military hospitals alone - hospitals 301, 302 and 309.

    Qi Xiaoqiu, another senior health ministry official, said there might be a slight discrepancy between what mainland officials and the World Health Organisation (WHO) considered as Sars. "Neither the [WHO] nor the Chinese government have a final definition of this disease," the health official said.

    Dr Jiang, who was not at the government briefing, said yesterday he was not surprised that senior officials had denied his allegations but could not completely refute them.

    "The most important thing is I propose that the WHO tour team visit PLA Hospital 309," said Dr Jiang, who keeps in close contact with many PLA hospital colleagues, some of whom were appalled with the government's under-reporting of this crisis. "Just by visiting 309, the WHO team would find more cases than the entire official released statistics."

    Jim Palmer, a spokesman for the WHO team visiting Beijing, said they might ask senior leaders for a complete tour of Beijing area hospitals before they leave, saying the international community was concerned about Beijing figures.

    Meanwhile, Beijing officials held a briefing for the foreign community yesterday, attended by more than 200 embassy staff and business executives.

    The officials announced they were setting up a 24-hour hotline in both Putonghua and English for foreigners in the city as well as designating a second hospital for foreigners who contract Sars.

    Li Fan, the director of the China and the World Institute, a political think-tank, said the recent crisis showed the government still had a long way to reach global standards in terms of transparency.

    "The government has been improving, but transparency has never been high enough in this country," he said.

    Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao accused foreigners of sensationalising the Sars issue.


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