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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 May, 2003, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Sars outbreak worsens in Taiwan
There have been seven Sars deaths in Taiwan

The World Health Organization is sending a team to Taiwan amid concern over a dramatic rise in Sars cases over the last 10 days.

At least eight people have died of the pneumonia-like illness in Taiwan, and the number of cases has soared following outbreaks in two hospitals in the capital, Taipei.

Taiwan's president Chen Shui-bian has postponed an official visit to Central America to deal with the worsening outbreak.

On Friday, China dropped its earlier opposition to Taiwan receiving direct help from World Health Organization experts, with the Chinese health ministry saying Beijing was concerned about the health and wellbeing of the people of Taiwan.

China considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification.

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

Taiwan was last week identified with China as a place where cases of the Sars virus had yet to peak.

Sars has killed more than 400 people around the world, although China remains the worst-hit country with 181 deaths and more than 3,800 people infected.

Beijing is likely to continue seeing new cases of Sars at the current high rate of more than 100 a day, a city health chief has said.

But officials believe the outbreak is nearing its peak and the rate of infection could start to slow within 10 days.

Students flee

Five more deaths reported on Friday took Taiwan's death toll to eight, with 102 cases.

President Chen Shui-bian's office announced he had put off visits to Costa Rica, Belize, Haiti and Dominican Republic due this month to stay at home and deal with the crisis.

A Chinese woman wearing a mask tries to sell her hats at a deserted Great Wall tourist venue
The outbreak has hurt the tourist trade

Taiwan's legislature is planning to double the size of a long-planned stimulus package worth more than 50bn New Taiwan dollars ($1.4bn; 900m) to try to counteract the economic damage wrought by Sars.

Although Taiwan has not suffered dramatic disruption, its economy relies on factories in mainland China and regular travel by business people to visit them.

Quarantine broken

In Singapore, police also arrested a man who violated a home quarantine order.

A police statement said the 50-year-old man was found on Friday in a coffee shop after a tip-off from the public. He is being held in isolation while under investigation.

While the Sars virus continues to spread in China, other badly affected regions such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada have now got the outbreak under control, according to the World Health Organization.

The BBC's Adam Brookes
"The number of Sars infections in China continues to rise"

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