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World Health Organization lifts travel advice for Hong Kong and Guangdong

Travel News Asia 23 May 2003

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that effective today it  is removing its recommendation that people should postpone all but essential travel to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Guangdong province, China.

The recommendation to consider postponing all but essential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong was issued on 2 April in order to minimize the international spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). WHO stated that it is changing this recommendation as the situation in these areas has now improved significantly.

The WHO issues recommendations to postpone travel following consideration of several factors, including the magnitude of probable SARS cases, the pattern of recent local transmission, and the last dates of export of cases.

On 27 March, WHO recommended that all areas with recent local transmission should screen all international departing passengers to ensure that those who are sick with SARS or are contacts of SARS cases do not travel. This WHO recommendation is still valid for both Hong Kong and Guangdong.

We are changing the travel advice for Hong Kong and Guangdong effective Friday, 23 May, said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the WHO. Guangdong was the first place in the world to have cases of SARS but I am pleased to note that due to the efforts of the local and national  health authorities, with support from WHO and partners, the outbreaks in Guangdong and in Hong Kong are being contained."

In Hong Kong, the three-day average number of new cases has remained below five over the last six days and the pattern of the outbreak shows a sustained decline since the peak of new cases in late March. The total number of people who are still infectious (all of whom are in hospital) has fallen below 60, although there are other former SARS patients who are still  convalescing or being treated for other conditions in hospital. All new cases in the past 20 days have occurred in people who were already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities. There have been no recent reports of internationally exported cases from Hong Kong.

In Guangdong province, the three-day average number of new cases has been below five for 11 days and the number of SARS patients in hospital fell below 60 on May 20. Due to the efforts of the provincial health authorities,  the extent of local transmission has fallen to low levels over recent weeks. There have been no recent reports of internationally exported cases from Guangdong province.

Dragonair welcomed the decision, "This is good news for Hong Kong," said Dragonair's Chief Executive Officer, Stanley Hui. "It provides the community with a much-needed psychological boost after a period of living under the shadow of SARS.

"Obviously, we must remain vigilant, and there's some way to go in getting the disease under control in the China mainland and Taiwan, but we hope Hong Kong's achievement will serve as a boost for them in their efforts."

He added: "For Dragonair this welcome news it just the first step in the long process of restoring normality to our major markets."

Mr Hui also paid tribute to those who have been involved in the battle against SARS: "The announcement is testament to the efforts and commitment of all of those in the community who have worked so tirelessly to contain the disease. It is a victory for them, and one that all of Hong Kong shares."

See also: Hong Kong Tourism Board welcomes lifting of WHO travel warning.

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