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WHO Removes Philippines From Travel Advisories - 2003-05-21


The Philippines says it is free of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the World Health Organization says it is safe to visit the country. A top Chinese official expressed disappointment that the UN agency has not removed travel advisories on parts of southern China and Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization has taken the Philippines off the list of countries with recent locally transmitted cases of SARS.

The last local cases happened on April 30th, when a doctor and nurse caught the disease from a patient. Philippine health authorities reported a total of 12 probable cases in the country, and two deaths from SARS.

Many countries had stopped accepting Filipino migrant workers for fear of importing SARS. But a WHO spokesman in Manila says the Philippines has been removed from the agency's list of places with travel advisories.

WHO warnings to avoid unnecessary travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong Province in southern China remain in effect for the time being.

Speaking at a the World Health Assembly conference in Geneva, China's Health Minister Wu Yi said she was disappointed by the continued advisories.

Ms. Wu says Beijing will "fully promote" removing Hong Kong and Guangdong from the WHO's list of places considered unsafe for visitors. She also says she does not understand why the SARS-related travel advisories have not been rolled back, since new cases in both places have been kept to single digits in recent weeks.

The WHO has said that the number of SARS patients in hospitals should fall below 60 before the travel warning is removed. At least 165 SARS patients remain hospitalized in Hong Kong.

The disease, which scientists say originated in China, has killed about 300 people out of more than 52,00 cases.

Worldwide, the disease, which causes a serious pneumonia, has infected about 79,00 people and killed 667. Most cases have been concentrated in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.

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