Record SARS toll in Taiwan after WHO alert


Taiwan health authorities were battling with an escalating SARS crisis today after a record number of cases were announced.

The announcement came in the wake of an island-wide World Health Organisation (WHO) travel alert.

Taiwan is alone amongst Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hotspots across Asia this week in registering significant numbers of new cases; other regions have posted steady declines.

Today a further 65 new cases - nearly double the previous daily record - were announced, taking Taiwan's tally to 483 infections and 60 deaths, according to Department of Health figures.

The WHO has said Taiwan is battling the world's "most rapid" outbreak of SARS and last night extended an earlier travel advisory imposed solely on Taipei to include all regions of Taiwan.

A large percentage of Taiwan's SARS cases have involved medical workers, and hundreds of hospital staff have quit in protest at working conditions.

SARS has left nearly 700 people dead and more than 8,000 infected in around 30 countries since it first emerged in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong last November.

China remains the worst-affected country, with latest figures putting the death toll at 296, with 5,249 cases. However, China has seen a steady fall in recorded cases, with 12 infections and two deaths announced yesterday.

Hong Kong has also shown signs that its outbreak is under control, with only a single case announced on Wednesday and two more deaths.