WHO lift Canadian travel warning

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that travel advice warning people to avoid Toronto due to SARS have been lifted today.

WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland said yesterday that following further consideration he was satisfied that improved measures taken by Canadian authorities aimed at restricting the spread of SARS were adequate.

Canadian authorities were outraged at the WHO following its advice not to travel to the country’s business capital. However, Canada is the only country outside of Asia that has been affected by a serious outbreak of SARS. The latest figures put the number of deaths from SARS at 21 with 69 patients currently hospitalised with SARS.

The WHO issue its amend ‘travel advisories’ notice following consideration of several factors, including the magnitude of probable SARS cases, the last dates of cases of community transmission, and the last dates of export of cases.

Dr Brundtland cited three changes in Toronto over the last week. The magnitude of probable SARS cases has decreased. Twenty days have passed since the last cases of community transmission occurred. No new confirmed exportation of cases has occurred.

WHO has also been assured by Canadian authorities that pro-active screening measures at airports will be implemented.

WHO continues to advise against travel to the Chinese capital Beijing, Hong Kong, and the provinces of Guangdong and Shanxi.

In Ireland in the run up to the Special Olympics in June, the Irish deputy prime minister, Tánaiste Mary Harney, has criticised a borough council’s decision to ask a team from Hong Kong not to stay in the Co Tipperary town of Clonmel as “premature”.

The borough council for the town, which is designated to host the Hong Kong team, said that the decision had been taken “with regret” in light of the SARS virus outbreak.

However, Ms Harney said that the council's decision was premature as the expert opinion of the WHO was being sought in relation to the risk from SARS.

Peter O’Brien, a committee member of the Special Olympics organisation present at the council meeting, confirmed that teams from the five areas worst affected by SARS had been requested to impose a 10-day quarantine on all team members and officials due to travel to Ireland.


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