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SARS Situation 'Severe' Says Beijing's New Mayor - 2003-04-30

Beijing's new mayor says Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, is stretching the city's medical facilities and personnel to the limit. Drastic measures are being taken to deal with the disease.

Describing the SARS situation in the Chinese capital as "severe," Beijing's new mayor, Wang Qishan, said a shortage of hospital beds was preventing patients from receiving timely treatment.

Mr. Wang says the city has to work hard just to maintain normal functioning of city services at this point.

He says these include the provision of water, food, power, public security, and keeping businesses open.

He also pointed out another problem that has emerged: only four percent of the city's 66,000 doctors and nurses have been trained to treat respiratory diseases. SARS usually develops into a severe and sometimes fatal form of pneumonia.

The health care system is being stretched to the limit as about 100 new cases of SARS are added here every day.

In all, there have been 1,347 confirmed infections in the city, and more than 1,300 suspected cases. The country as a whole has reported as many as 200 new cases in a single day.

Chinese state-run media report that nearly 10,000 people in the capital are under quarantine. The authorities have confined residents of one building in the center of the city, and another in a northern suburb, along with several hospitals.

Mr. Wang says ever since he took office, every waking minute of his day has been spent dealing with the SARS problem.

He was appointed mayor almost two weeks ago, after his predecessor, Meng Xuenong, was fired for helping cover up the extent of the outbreak.

Mr. Wang said a completely new, 1,000 bed hospital has been built on the outskirts of the city in barely a week, specifically to isolate and treat SARS patients.

He said patients will start being moved to the new facility Wednesday night, alleviating some of the pressure on existing hospitals.