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China reports SARS-free day

Authorities are considering banning live chicken sales as part of new hygiene measures in Hong Kong.
Authorities are considering banning live chicken sales as part of new hygiene measures in Hong Kong.

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(CNN) -- China has recorded its first day free of any new reported SARS cases since it started releasing figures on the infection rate in April.

Single digit increases in the number of SARS cases in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China have prompted cautious optimism that the crisis may be turning the corner.

The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the announcement but warned that Canada's resurgence of SARS cases offered a reminder there was no room for complacency

"We are encouraged to see the downward trend," WHO medical expert Bob Deitz said.

"WHO urges China not to drop its guard. It's not the time to stop being vigilant."

Hong Kong reported its 19th consecutive day with fewer than five new cases. Health authorities on Monday said there were four new infections and one death, bringing the territory's toll to 282 dead from 1,747 infections.

Taiwan also reported four new cases, taking the number of infections to 684 on the island. The death toll has remained at 81 since Thursday.

The removal of Singapore from the SARS blacklist gave a boost to store takings and the stock market which ended up 2.3 percent.

Canada, however, is battling an unexpected resurgence of cases.

In Toronto, health officials said Sunday that another SARS patient had died, bringing the total number of deaths in Canada attributed to the disease to 31.

Ontario's chief medical officer, Dr. Colin D'Cunha, said that a 60-year-old woman died "in the last 24 hours" and was infected "in a medical setting."

The number of active probable cases jumped from 46 to 52, D'Cunha said, with 51 of those hospitalized. But the number of people who may have been exposed but show no symptoms dropped from more than 7,300 to less than 5,300.

"You're seeing a tailing off," he said, "and you're seeing a number of people come off quarantine. ... (But) we are still in a state of hyper vigilance."

Dr. James Young, Ontario's commissioner of public security, said the investigation announced Saturday into five possible SARS-related deaths at Rouge Valley Centenary Health Center continued and that there had been no sign of healthcare workers at the hospital infected.

"We want to make it crystal clear that it's highly unlikely that all five are SARS," he said. "We don't even know if any of them will be SARS."

APEC plan

Meanwhile, senior APEC officials, meeting in Thailand, have endorsed a SARS action plan aimed a restoring public confidence shattered by the outbreak.

"SARS has had a negative impact on business in the region and undermined the wellbeing of the global economy," APEC secretariat executive director Piamsak Milintachinda said in a statement released Sunday.

"Restoring public confidence is paramount so that business returns to normalcy."

The action plan includes short-term initiatives relating to the exchange of information and the adoption of common guiding principles on border health screening.

In the medium to long-term, the plan includes initiatives to minimize the impact of SARS on sectors such as tourism, trade and business mobility.

The action plan also includes measures to promote cooperation to develop common standards for the monitoring and reporting of infectious diseases.

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