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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Virus cancels orchestra tour
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Musicians' health is not being risked
The BBC's Scottish Symphony Orchestra has cancelled next month's six-city tour of China amid fears about the spread of the mystery Sars illness.

The decision has been taken on the advice of the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health about Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in China and south east Asia.

Orchestra director Hugh Macdonald, said: "It is only after extensive consultation with the tour's Chinese promoters and the BBC's chief medical officer that we have reluctantly decided to cancel this important visit.

"The BBC cannot put at risk the health of its employees and we are advised that there is no guarantee that the problem in China will be solved by the middle of May."

The 100-strong tour party was due in Beijing on 21 May with the final date in the southern city of Guangzhou on 30 May.

How Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has spread around the world

It would have been one of the most extensive Chinese tours undertaken by a western orchestra.

Some of the repertoire from the intended tour will now be played in Glasgow on 15 May and Aberdeen on May 24.

China has been urged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to reveal all it knows about the illness.

The authorities have been accused of a slow and secretive handling of the outbreak in order to avoid spreading panic.

According to official figures, 103 people have now died in 32 countries, half of them in China.

WHO officials are optimistic they will discover more about the virus once China supplied specimen samples from patients.

Isolation ward in Guangdong
The illness may be caused by a cold-type virus

Scientists are increasingly confident that the illness is caused by a virus related to that which causes the common cold.

A team from the University of Hong Kong studied 50 patients with Sars from five separate outbreak clusters.

Nine out of 10 showed evidence of infection by a coronavirus. In contrast, the virus was not found in any healthy people that the scientists also examined.

The scientists, who published their work on The Lancet website on Tuesday, said the virus they had isolated was not one of the two known human coronaviruses. They believe it may have originated in animals.




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