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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Cannes 'vigilant' over Sars
Chinese actors depict Sars fear
The virus is thought to have originated in China

Cannes film festival organisers hope precautionary measures will keep the Sars virus at bay when delegates from Asia fly in for the event next week.

Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) has claimed more than 500 lives so far, with the highest death tolls occuring in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Veronique Cayla, the administrative head of the festival, told the AFP news agency organisers "were keeping a close watch but remained calm" about keeping the epidemic at bay.

Most of the preventative measures will be put in place by the foreign delegations before they arrive on the French Riviera for the festival which runs from 14 - 25 May.

"All the delegation members will undergo a check-up before departure and be given a medical certificate. These are check-ups taking place in the country of origin as wished for by the delegations," said Ms Cayla.

Countries affected by the virus are also reducing the number of delegates attending the prestigious event.

And there will be more controls in place at departure airports as well as at French airports.

Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan is on this year's Cannes jury

"Given that these are long trips, the crews are watching for possible symptoms. I cannot see how, in these conditions, anyone sick could escape detention," she added.

A 24-hour medical service will be available at the festival base and there will be constant contact between organisers and government health officials to keep abreast of any developments.

Film stars are not expected to wear protective masks as worn by some members of the public in affected countries.

Sars is believed to have originated in the Chinese province of Guangdong last November. Authorities initially played down the significance of the virus.

Some events have taken more drastic measures to avoid the killer virus.

Guests from the Far East had their invitations to an Italian film festival cancelled because of the deadly Sars virus last month.

Authorities in the north-eastern Italian region asked the Far East Film Festival to withdraw invitations to about 22 delegates from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan including actors, producers and directors.

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