HONG KONG - A dozen former SARS patients here who were thought to have suffered relapses turned out to have other medical problems, health officials said yesterday, as the rate of new cases of the illness being reported around the world slowed.
The Hong Kong Hospital Authority caused international alarm Wednesday when it said that 12 patients who seemed to have recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome had been readmitted to hospitals after apparently relapsing.
But Dr. Liu Shao-haei, a senior manager of the authority, said at a news conference yesterday that although some of the patients had developed fevers or other symptoms of the illness after their discharge from a hospital, not one turned out to be sick again with SARS.
Meanwhile yesterday, several governments announced lower daily totals for new SARS cases.
Beijing reported 69 new cases, down from 114 Saturday and the lowest daily total there in the past two weeks.
But 94 new infections were reported elsewhere in mainland China yesterday, up from 67 Saturday. A big fear about China lately has been that the disease might spread in rural areas, which have very limited medical facilities.
Seven people died of SARS in China yesterday and nine Saturday. China initially concealed the extent of the spread of SARS but has insisted since April 20 that it is telling the truth.
Beijing authorities said yesterday that all schools would remain closed for an additional two weeks, beyond the original reopening date of Thursday.
Hong Kong said it had eight new cases of SARS yesterday, down from 10 Saturday and the lowest since the Chinese territory began reporting daily figures in mid-March. Five people died of the disease in Hong Kong yesterday and nine Saturday.