Kuala Lumpur/Beijing, April 9 (Reuters): Malaysia took the draconian step of banning all tourists from mainland China today to try to stop the spread of the deadly SARS virus.
The Philippines said it would discourage travel to Hong Kong, which after mainland China has been most affected by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The virus has killed more than 100 people and infected almost 3,000 around the world.
The move by China’s neighbours reflects suspicions that Beijing has been covering up the extent of the SARS epidemic in the mainland.
In a rare case of public whistle-blowing in China, a military doctor broke ranks and accused the health minister of lying about the number of people in the capital Beijing infected with SARS.
Dr Jiang Yanyong, 71, said in a letter sent to journalists that six people had died of SARS and 60 had been infected at Beijing’s military-run 309 Hospital by last Thursday.
Health minister Zhang Wenkang said on that day that Beijing had only 12 cases, three of whom had died.
“I think he wants very much to accomplish big things so he must tell lies,” Jiang, a Communist Party member for more than 50 years, said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters today.