The Graduate Management Admissions Test has been suspended in China following the outbreak of Sars. The president of the Graduate Management Admissions Council, David Wilson, said that the test would resume as soon as the National Education Examinations Authority allowed.
Beijing municipal government said that the annual college entrance examination would be held as planned on June 6 and 7. Classes for the city's 81,000 examinees would resume at senior middle schools on May 22, although pupils at the city's junior and middle schools would remain at home.
China's Supreme Court and its top prosecutor have ruled that anyone who breaks a Sars quarantine order and spreads the virus intentionally could face life in prison or the death penalty.
The State Council has issued a decree that orders officials to report any public health outbreak within two hours or face sacking or jail. The decree, signed by Premier Wen Jiabao, said any hospital that covered up cases or refused to treat patients would lose its licence. Public health emergencies were defined as serious epidemics, widespread unidentified diseases, and food and industrial poisoning.
The central government said that it had sacked or reprimanded 120 officials from 15 cities or regions for dereliction of their duties in the battle against Sars. "This is the first time China has penalised such a wide range of officials for dereliction of duty during an unexpected calamity," said an official from the Communist Party's organisation department, quoted by Xinhua.
The World Health Organization (WHO) accused China's military of failing to reveal important information about the spread of Sars in the armed forces. It said military personnel accounted for about 8 per cent of all Sars cases, but basic data such as the victim's location was being withheld.
The WHO also said that Beijing health authorities had failed to report a lot of suspected Sars patients with milder symptoms of the disease as probable cases. "We are not saying that China has distorted the figures. But the definition of Sars is too narrow," said WHO spokeswoman Mangai Balasegaram. An expert from China's national taskforce for Sars prevention and control responded by saying that its diagnostic methods for determining suspected cases were much stricter than those used by the WHO.
The WHO advised against all non-essential travel to Tianjin, Inner Mongolia and Taiwan, where there was evidence that the virus was being spread beyond hospitals.
Shanghai imposed a two-week quarantine on people returning from Sars-affected areas. So far, the city has reported only a small percentage of the country's Sars cases.
Students in Beijing would soon start returning to school, said officials on May 18, about a month after classes were suspended in the capital. Senior high school pupils will be the first to return, many of whom have been preparing for exams, followed by pri- mary and secondary school pupils. All schools should be operational by July 15, and the start of the summer holidays will be put off until July 25.
A decline in the number of new Sars cases prompted President Hu Jintao to declare that China would overcome the virus. "We are convinced that [Sars] is a disease that can be prevented, controlled and cured," he said. By May 20, deputy health minister Ma Xiaowei said Sars cases had peaked in big cities such as Beijing and there was no sign of it spreading to the countryside.
Flooding in rural and central China in May could accelerate the Spread of Sars and hamper the ability of local health systems to cope with the virus, warned the WHO. Heavy rains in Hunan and Guangdong provinces killed more than 40 people and caused more than 18,000 to flee their homes.
Vice-premier Wu Yi called for an international fund to finance a worldwide campaign to combat the spread of Sars. Addressing the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Wu also announced that the central government would spend Yn8bn on a disease control centre in Beijing that would be completed before the 2008 Olympic Games.
About 8m migrant workers left China's major cities in the weeks leading up to mid- May, raising concerns about a possible largescale spread of Sars to the countryside. The vice-minister of agriculture said about 4m had fled due to the outbreak, while the remainder had returned for the harvest season. A survey by the ministry said about one in 10 migrant workers had recently returned home.
An epidemiologist from the Ministry of Health told state television that a higher proportion of rural cases had occurred in May. Dr Xu Dezhing said the disease had spread to rural area in 15 provinces by the middle of the month. In addition, migrant workers accounted for 10 per cent of new cases in Beijing, he said.
All migrant workers and peasants are entitled to free medical treatment, Premier Wen Jiabao told the State Council. Few rural inhabitants have health benefits and only 20 per cent of state health expenditure goes to the countryside, where about 70 per cent of the population live.Infectious disease control experts from the WHO were sent on inspection visits to the provinces of Guangxi, Anhui and Henan. All had relatively low Sars totals but were considered at risk. An estimated 290,000 migrant workers returned to Henan between May 1 and May 4, many of them from the Sars hotspots of Beijing and Guangdong.
Global Sources, which operates a trade site linking manufacturers and buyers worldwide, said it had experienced a 40 per cent year-on-year increase in China-related enquiries in April.
Motorola closed its main office in Beijing for about two weeks after April 29 when a member of its staff contracted the Sars virus. About 1,000 workers returned to the building after it was cleaned and other employees completed a two-week quarantine.
A number of insurers including Taikang Life and Taiping Life have started offering coverage against Sars. However, Ping An Insurance said it would only offer free Sars coverage for customers buying health products. Some insurers have excluded liability for cancelled events or business disruption caused by the Sars outbreak. Firms expect premium income to grow in the longer-term because of growing public awareness of the importance of insurance cover.
A planned Sino-foreign broadband internet venture has been postponed because of the Sars outbreak. The planned joint venture between China Netcom and venture capital units of International Data Group and Softbank was to have a registered capital of Yn200m and offer broadband access, content and application services.
The People's Bank of China is increasing the amount of new cash in circulation and holding used banknotes for a day because of concerns about the spreading of disease through handling money. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has urged customers to use ATMs, telephones and the internet to do their banking.
The women's football World Cup, due to take place in China between September 23 and October 11, has been switched to the US because of the Sars outbreak. The start of the domestic football season has also been postponed.
A survey by the European Chamber of Commerce in China, sent out on April 28, showed that many European companies in China had experienced a fall in revenues by as much as 40 per cent since the start of the Sars outbreak.
Research by International Data Corporation showed that sales of personal computers were likely to fall sharply in the second quarter of this year, as the Sars outbreak kept nervous consumers away from shops.