WHO removes Hong Kong, Guangdong from SARS travel warning

WHO removes Hong Kong, Guangdong from SARS travel warning

SARS coronavirus
The United Nations health agency today lifted its warning against all but essential travel from two major SARS areas – Hong Kong, which has reported the second highest number of cases and deaths from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and China’s Guangdong Province, where the new disease first emerged in November.

The decision, based on significant improvement in both places, left six areas still subject to the travel advisory issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), all in China – Beijing, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Taiwan Province and Tianjin.

Worldwide, the disease had claimed 8,117 probable cases with 689 deaths as of today. By far the vast majority were in China – 5,285 cases with 303 deaths. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, came second with a much higher death ratio – 1,724 cases and 260 deaths.

The recommendation to consider postponing all but essential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong was issued on 2 April in order to minimize the international spread of SARS but the situation has now improved significantly, WHO said. Advisories are issued following consideration of several factors, including the magnitude of probable SARS cases, the pattern of recent local transmission, and the last dates of export of cases.

On 27 March, WHO recommended that all areas with recent local transmission should screen all international departing passengers to ensure that those who are sick with SARS or are contacts of SARS cases do not travel. This recommendation is still valid for both Hong Kong and Guangdong.

In Hong Kong, the three-day average number of new cases has remained below five over the last six days and the pattern of the outbreak shows a sustained decline since the peak of new cases in late March. The total number of people who are still infectious, all of whom are in hospital, has fallen below 60l. All new cases in the past 20 days have occurred in people already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities. There have been no recent reports of internationally exported cases from Hong Kong.

In Guangdong, the three-day average of new cases has been below five for 11 days and the number of SARS patients in hospital fell below 60 on 20 May. Due to the efforts of the provincial health authorities, the extent of local transmission has fallen to low levels over recent weeks. There have been no recent reports of internationally exported cases from Guangdong.