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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Asian Officials Meet to Combat SARS

BEIJING/BANGKOK, Thailand -- China reported nine more SARS deaths and more than 200 new cases Tuesday as Asian heads of government gathered to fight an outbreak that has killed hundreds, curbed travel and threatened economic growth.

The WHO's chief of communicable diseases, David Heymann, in Bangkok to brief and advise the Asian leaders, said on the eve of the summit that China was key to containing severe acute respiratory syndrome.

China has reported 148 SARS deaths and more than 3,300 cases, and health experts suspect the actual tally in China could be far higher.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations will be encouraged by a WHO assessment that the virus with no known cure appears to have peaked in Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Canada. But with the disease still on the rise in China, ASEAN is keen to get the help of Premier Wen Jiabao to enforce strict new measures, including pre-departure checks at airports and ports across the region.

Among measures announced Tuesday, China is to shut its stock exchanges from May 1 to 9 and to ban overseas travelers from SARS-free Tibet. ASEAN leaders will hold a two-hour summit before meeting Wen and Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa.

"By reaching across borders for common solutions, ASEAN is projecting the strong message that we are prepared to close ranks with the world to fight this threat to the end," Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said.

ASEAN leaders, afraid SARS may batter their key tourism industries, are expected to rubber stamp a deal brokered by health ministers over the weekend to resist blanket bans on travelers from any country. Taiwan is the only place to have imposed such a ban, deciding to close its borders to visitors from China, Hong Kong, Canada and Singapore for two weeks and quarantine residents returning from those places.

WHO has slapped travel advisories on Beijing and other parts of China, including Hong Kong, and Toronto.

Mongolia confirmed its first two SARS cases Tuesday and said four other people in the impoverished north Asian nation had probably been infected.

Highlighting deepening public fear as China fails to check the spread of the disease, residents of a town near Beijing rioted after learning of a plan to set up a SARS quarantine center in an abandoned school, officials said Tuesday.

The riot erupted Sunday in the township of 32,500 people about 70 kilometers southeast of Beijing, a local government official said. He declined to elaborate, or to say how many people took part in the riot or how it was resolved.