Hong Kong reports seven new SARS deaths


Hong Kong has reported seven more deaths from the SARS virus and 40 more suspected cases.

Earlier today China reported four new deaths from the epidemic and 74 new cases and admitted the situation remained "grave", as analysts warned the crisis would have dire economic consequences for Asia.

Together with five fatalities reported in Hong Kong yesterday, one in Singapore, and seven more in Hong Kong today the global death toll from SARS now stands at 143.

Canada, which reported three new deaths on Saturday, now has a total of 13 fatalities.

Another in Vietnam reported on Saturday brought its death toll to five, with two fatalities recorded in Thailand and one in Malaysia. More than 3,200 SARS cases have been acknowledged worldwide.

The mayor of Beijing admitted meanwhile that the city's first case emerged six weeks ago.

"The first SARS patient treated in a hospital in Beijing on March 1 has recovered," Mayor Meng Xuenong said, according to the China Daily.

The revelation appeared to confirm claims by a doctor from the city's No. 301 Military Hospital that authorities were alerted to the existence of SARS in Beijing much earlier than they have acknowledged.

They covered it up because it clashed with the annual legislature, which opened on March 5th, according to the doctor.

On Friday, the WHO added Beijing to its list of areas affected by SARS following indications that "chains of local transmission are occurring".

This put the city of 13 million on an exclusive list alongside two Chinese provinces, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Hanoi and Toronto.

Five WHO experts were looking into Beijing's defenses against the disease today, and Shanghai, China's largest city, had also invited a team to visit.