China in the grip of SARS

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 15 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1095
  1. Therese Hesketh, senior lecturer in international health (
  1. Institute of Child Health, London

    At a press conference on 20 April the Chinese minister of health admitted that there had been failings over the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic: the situation was more serious than had been admitted previously. Along with the mayor of Beijing he was promptly fired. But the speech had had the desired effect: public health action had finally been galvanised.

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    A dubious measure?


    I live in Zhejiang, a coastal province halfway between the two Chinese epicentres of the disease, Guangdong and Beijing. Here following the press conference, the government immediately held an emergency meeting. By the next morning a whole raft of measures was in place. All cinemas, theatres, and karaoke bars were closed. All public training courses and meetings and all school outings were cancelled. All buses, trains, taxis, train stations, bus stations, airports were to be disinfected. The May Day holiday was cancelled.

    But there was much more: at 7 …

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