(Clearwisdom.net) According to Hong Kong's Chinese language Apple Daily newspaper, with the spread of rumor that the city would be closed, there appeared a sudden exodus from Beijing. People from outside Beijing who used to try everything to stay in Beijing, are now trying to flee from it. Migrant workers and university students flocked to train and bus stations and airports in the hope of getting out of Beijing. There also appeared a panic buying of rice and oil at supermarkets in Beijing.

A sea of people heading for Beijing Railway Station (AFP)

It is rumored that the city would be closed, migrant workers and university students flee back to their hometown

With the threat that SARS cases are increasing by more than 100 per day, Beijing looks as if it is under siege. Supermarkets are filled with citizens who are in a panic to buy rice and oil. Railway stations are crowded with migrant workers and university students in white surgical masks. The media kept announcing which buildings and trains are being infected. The Beijing authorities finally cancelled classes for Beijing's 1.7 million students from primary and secondary schools for two weeks.

The internal memorandum of the Beijing authorities listed extremely dangerous areas, including 14 hospitals, and railway stations including Sanlitun, Yonganli, Fuchengmen and Dongzhimen. Places such as university campuses, East Square, Zhongguancun Building and the Business Bureau are listed as places with a high risk of SARS infection.

SARS epidemic is in a growth stage

The Guangdong Province Disease Control and Prevention expert team leader Mr. Zhong Nanshan, who is attending a meeting in Beijing, said that from the outbreak of the SARS to its final suppression might need three months. Beijing is now at the growth stage. In other words, it will take at least several months before the number of SARS cases declines.

Beijing's Ministry of Education declared yesterday that all schools in the city would suspend classes for two weeks from today until May 7. 1.7 million school students are affected by the cancellation of classes.

A sea of passengers in white masks thronged yesterday in Beijing Railway Station. A migrant worker from Henan Province, Deng Pao, said, "I'm going home because I'm scared of getting sick." He said that he had been in Beijing for two months and had a good job, but it was not worth it if he was infected with SARS. Many passengers would rather wait outside than linger in enclosed waiting rooms. A 20-year-old university student Cao Shu, who was waiting for the train home, said that his train would not leave for another six hours, but he did not want to wait inside.

Classrooms at universities are almost vacant

Over a dozen universities have been discovered as being infected with SARS. Many of them have cancelled classes. Nine out of ten classrooms are left vacant at universities that still have some classes in session. A university student from Central Finance and Economics University said that SARS was discovered on campus on April 10, but the school authorities hid the news from students. On April 17, "The entire teaching building and dormitories have been vacant, most students have left. Many dormitories are in a big mess, there's paper all over the ground."

Along with the exodus, the virus may be spreading to other places. Provinces such as Jiangsu, Hubei, Qinghai and Gansu are urgently looking for people who have been on the same trains or flights with SARS patients.

Panic-buying of basic goods in Beijing

The Beijing government yesterday denied the rumor about "closing the city to prevent the epidemic," but another rumor was being circulated that martial law would be enforced that day. A large number of Beijing citizens rushed to supermarkets to buy rice, oil, salt, vinegar and other daily necessities.

Several supermarkets downtown and in the suburbs have sold out of rice. Some shops increased the price of rice, but citizens kept buying. A citizen said, "Even though I'm not worried about closing the city, I don't go out very often right now. I'll stay home for longer periods of time, so that's why I'm buying such large quantities of daily necessities."

Other than Guangdong Province and Beijing, a rumor is spreading that Taiyuan City will soon be closed. The same panic buying of basic goods occurred there as well.

Citizens are in a panic as the number of SARS cases soar in Beijing

The Voice of America reported on April 24, SARS cases published in Beijing have been increasing by over 100 people for three consecutive days, causing panic among the citizens.

SARS rumors are flying everywhere, and many citizens are afraid that the SARS epidemic may be out of control. The panic buying of medicine, food and other basic goods have caused the shortage of some daily necessities on the market.

The Beijing government asked for assistance from Commerce Department, requesting ten provinces and cities to guarantee daily necessities such as food and medicine in Beijing. In addition, the authorities have shut down one of the biggest hospitals in Beijing due to SARS.

An official said that Beijing University People's Hospital was closed Thursday morning, but he didn't give details.

SARS has spread to dozens of countries around the world, with 251 deaths and thousands of people infected. China is the worst hit area with 110 deaths and 2,400 cases of infections reported.