A drugstore in Beijing provides large quantity of Chinese traditional medicine claimed to be able to prevent SARS (AFP photo).

(Clearwisdom.net) The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) continues to spread in China. The Chinese government dispatched teams to Ningxia Province, Inner Mongolia and other places to supervise the prevention and treatment of SARS. Meanwhile, organized tours towards countryside and hinterland are prohibited.

According to report from BBC on April 22, 157 new cases were reported officially in China, increasing the total of confirmed SARS cases to 2158. Ninety-seven people have died. In addition, there are more than 900 probable cases. Most of the new cases occurred in Beijing area.

At present, only seven among the 31 provinces in China temporarily have no cases found.

New Leaders, Tardy Gesture

The way China handled SARS outbreak in the previous period of time drew extensive criticism from the international society. The new Chinese government led by Hu Jintao finally came up with new moves over the weekend.

The President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao started appearing on national TV frequently and stood at the forefront in preventing and treating SARS.

However, other high-ranking officials in the Central Political Bureau appeared to be abnormally quiet. Even Jiang Zemin, who usually enjoys showing up in the media, also sealed his lips. He was still the President of China when SARS broke out.

The appearance of the situation aroused different hypotheses from political analysts. Some considered that the group of Jiang Zemin might "draw back" and wait for others to make mistakes and then seize the opportunity for political gain. The Mayor of Beijing Meng Xuenong was removed from his Party post as an example.

Potential Crisis in Rural Area

The Chinese government announced the dispatching of medical teams to Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangdong Province, where SARS was believed to have initially broken out. The Chinese Prime Minister and government officials of lower levels continued to emphasize the severity of the epidemic and demanded local officials truthfully and accurately report the situation.

Many Chinese people still don't feel that the government officials have started telling the truth and are very indignant.

One opinion holds that SARS is not only an infection on the verge of being out of control, but is also a political crisis, which may cause far-reaching effects on the relationship between the government and the common people.

BBC China correspondent Ma Qinglong said that it became clearer and clearer that the most serious threat caused by SARS outbreak might appear in the poor rural area, where medical facilities and funds were severely in short supply and the people usually didn't have money to go to hospital to receive necessary medical treatment.

The Chinese government said that a 100 million US dollar special fund was allocated to ensure that SARS patients receive medical treatment. Qilu Evening Paper in Shandong Province reported that the Qingdao City offered a 1000-Yuan reward to the first individual or hospital that discovered a SARS case in Qingdao, so as to prevent the spread of the virus.

At Lingkou Town Middle School in Luoyang County, Shaanxi Province, hundreds of students were ill after taking some Chinese medicine claimed to be able to prevent SARS.

World Health Organization experts continued to visit Shanghai to investigate the prevention work against SARS.

Hong Kong Becomes to Be an Empty Ghost Town

Shenzhen, a city located in the Guangdong Province, started on Wednesday to install temperature checking systems at the transit pass between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to check people coming and going. Shenzhen will install similar instruments at the airport and harbors.

The Hong Kong government reported five new death cases on Tuesday. The death toll in Hong Kong increased to 99, and the number of infected cases became 1434.

While people are trying to avoid traveling or going out for fear of being infected by the SARS virus, the outbreak of SARS is bringing tremendous losses to China's economy.

BBC Beijing Correspondent Williams reported that China's economy is undergoing a huge attack from the SARS outbreak. In many shops, restaurants and hotels in Beijing, visitors are quite scarce. Some local Hong Kong residents said that Hong Kong has become an empty ghost town.

China cancelled the one-week May First holiday to prevent people from traveling and causing even broader spread of SARS. The State Department issued orders on Monday to local areas to still have the 5-day holiday.