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China villagers vent ire on city-dwellers

Hong Kong, May 10 (Reuters): Chinese villagers, increasingly worried about SARS, dumped rotten fish on cars carrying visitors from Beijing while Canada isolated 30 people suspected to be infected by the virus.

The government said five new deaths today took the toll in China to 235 and 85 new cases took infections to 4,884, as rural people who associate the disease with cities put up barricades to keep out city-dwellers.

Villagers dumped rotten fish and shrimp on about a dozen cars from the capital at a popular picnic spot outside Beijing to send city folk a message to stay away, the Beijing Times reported.

“Who lets city people come to the suburbs at a time like this' They deserved it!” the paper quoted villagers as saying.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has killed more than 520 people around the world and infected almost 7,500 in nearly 30 countries. China and Hong Kong have been hardest hit with 447 deaths and more than 6,550 cases. In Canada, a Toronto hospital sent 30 more people into isolation after a nurse administrator developed SARS-like symptoms, but a senior doctor said he was confident she did not have the deadly illness and the quarantine would be lifted soon.

“The bottom line is we’re being awfully cautious,” Dr Donald Low, chief of microbiology at Mount Sinai Hospital, which put the 30 in isolation, said yesterday. “Every time that somebody develops a respiratory tract infection and can be linked in any way (to SARS) the onus is on us to rule it out. I think that is the proper thing to do, but it just makes it difficult for us to get back to normal.”

SARS has killed 23 people in Canada’s largest city, the only place outside Asia where people have died from SARS. Twenty-four SARS patients are in hospitals and three are critically ill.

Low said it would be premature for the WHO to take Toronto off its SARS-affected area list as the virus lingers in hospitals, adding it would make sense for the WHO to reassess the city’s status in a week’s time.

In the Chinese city of Baoding, 150 km south of Beijing, a barricade of barbed wire in Chengyuan, a block of shanty dwellings, provides telling evidence of the fear of SARS sweeping the vast nation.

Responding to a government battle-cry to shield outlying areas from contagion, residents of the more than 1,000 households in Chengyuan are turning their neighbourhoods into ghettos, even though no one has caught SARS.

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