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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Sars 'contained' say experts
Taiwanese school children at the reopening of Jenchi Hospital, which was closed after a Sars outbreak
The WHO has now lifted its travel warning against Taiwan
The World Health Organization has announced that the Sars epidemic is being contained, but says the fight against the virus is far from over.

The statement came as more than 1,000 scientists, doctors and government officials gathered in Malaysia for a global conference on the disease.

Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) has killed 800 people and infected around 8,500 since it first emerged late last year, but cases have been falling worldwide in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, the WHO lifted its travel warning for Taiwan, which has the world's third-highest number of infections and fatalities.

Only Beijing is now affected by the travel advisory.

Known death tolls:
World: 812
Mainland China: 348
Hong Kong: 298
Taiwan: 84
Singapore: 32
Canada: 38
Source: WHO/local authorities

The WHO meeting in Kuala Lumpur opened with each delegate and journalist having their temperature measured as part of Malaysia's very visible Sars containment programme.

"We must remember that in this region, we are more likely to be invaded by new microbes rather than by a foreign army," Malaysian Health Minister Chua Jui Meng said in a speech opening the conference.

The WHO's director for the Western Pacific region, Dr Shigeru Omi, said "the global situation is getting better" but stressed that "Sars has not been defeated. We must be better prepared next time."

How Sars spread across the world

He particularly praised the work of the government in China - the country worst hit by the disease - for its effort in fighting Sars.

China was initially criticised for covering up the true extent of its Sars crisis.

Dr Omi said WHO officials were collaborating with Beijing to investigate whether the disease had originated from animals.

Geneva-based WHO technical officer Mark Salter said ahead of the conference that in order to be able to say "the box is closed tight (on Sars)... we still need a lot more information about the virus, the disease and how the disease spreads among the population".

The BBC's Ania Lichtarowicz
"WHO said it was impressed with the way the Taiwanese authorities had handled the disease"

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