China is covering up Sars deaths, says doctor

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The Independent Online

A prominent Chinese surgeon accused the government yesterday of concealing the full extent of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), saying there had been several more deaths and five times more cases of infection in Beijing than publicly reported.

A prominent Chinese surgeon accused the government yesterday of concealing the full extent of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), saying there had been several more deaths and five times more cases of infection in Beijing than publicly reported.

And in a further indication of the scale of the problem, an employee at a hospital in the Chinese capital said it was shut down after staff contracted the potentially fatal illness.

Even as state media repeated the government's insistence that the outbreak was under control, the Health Ministry said health officials from throughout China had been summoned to Beijing for a meeting about efforts to combat the illness.

The claim of unreported deaths came in a statement by Dr Jiang Yanyong, a retired chief of surgery for a Beijing military hospital. He said two other military-run institutions have suffered at least seven fatalities plus there were 106 cases of the disease. Chinese authorities have reported four fatalities and 19 cases in Beijing, including a Finnish man who died on Sunday.

Doctors and administrators reached by telephone at the hospitals cited by Dr Jiang – the Military 302 and 309 hospitals – refused to comment. Dr Jiang said his information came from staff who work at those hospitals.

At the People's Armed Police General Hospital in Beijing, a receptionist who answered the telephone said the facility was closed five days ago after staff fell ill.

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