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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 19:30 GMT 20:30 UK
Bra masks used to ward off Sars
Masked resident in sealed-off housing complex in Taipei
Taiwan now has 360 cases of Sars

Residents of a Taiwan village are strapping bras to their faces to guard against the deadly Sars virus due to a shortage of surgical masks.

The number of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome cases in Taiwan has tripled in the last two weeks and face masks are now in high demand.

Shops in a small village near the southern city of Tainan had completely sold out of the masks.

So a small bra factory decided to help out - with workers cutting each of its colourful bras in two and sewing on extra straps.

Spread to south?

"I went to every pharmacy in the village and it's impossible to find a proper mask," a middle-aged man, his face partially covered by a dark red cup, told cable television.

"Somebody came up with this idea so I decided to give it a try," he said.

Taiwan now has 360 cases of Sars - the third highest in the world after China and Hong Kong.

Authorities fear it may have spread from the capital, Taipei, in the north to the south of the island.

Tests are being carried out to discover if an elderly man in the Kaohsiung area died of Sars - if confirmed, it would be southern Taiwan's first case.

According to Associated Press Television News, some people have begun taken the lead from bra-making factories and are customising their own to make masks.

APTN says people are also buying up stocks of pure alcohol, to mix with water for a disinfectant to wipe surfaces in a bid to kill the Sars virus.

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