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Virus breather to China, not Canada

Beijing, June 2 (Reuters): China reported no new SARS cases today for the first time in at least six weeks, a clear sign the flu-like disease is on the retreat in Asia.

But the World Health Organisation, pointing to a renewed outbreak of the disease in Canada, warned that the virus was proving hard to eliminate. “This is not the time to drop our guard,” Bob Dietz, the spokesperson for the UN health agency in Beijing, said.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has killed more than 750 people worldwide and infected more than 8,300 since it first appeared in southern China’s Guangdong province last year.

China’s health ministry said today there had been no new infections in a 24-hour period for the first time since April, when the government came clean after a cover-up that grossly understated the extent of the outbreak.

Taiwan, fighting the world’s worst outbreak outside mainland China and Hong Kong, logged its fourth straight day of single-digit growth in new cases today with just four. Hong Kong reported four more cases, the 19th straight day new infections there had been five or less.

But the death toll in Canada’s biggest city, Toronto, rose to 31 on Sunday when a 60-year-old woman died and authorities said they were investigating five other deaths for SARS links.

“We take a look at Canada where all of a sudden this thing just pops up seemingly out of nowhere with a really developed healthcare system and we realise that it’s not an easy thing to get rid of,” Dietz said.

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