The World Health Organization has lifted its SARS-related travel warnings for Hong Kong and China's Guangdong province, as a possible breakthrough in the origin of the virus emerged. It is believed the epidemic originated in Guangdong, and officials praised national health authorities for controlling the outbreak in those areas. Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa welcomed the lifting of the warning, praising the efforts of medical staff, but highlighting the need to remain vigilant.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's SARS crisis is threatening to deteriorate rapidly after more than 100 cases were reported in the past two days. The situation may explode with almost 1,000 suspected cases yet to be determined as SARS infections. Highlighting the seriousness of the situation, a member of a U.S. team assessing SARS control procedures in Taiwan has developed symptoms of the disease.
The WHO says Taiwan now has the world's fastest growing outbreak. Hospitals on the island are struggling to cope with the latest increase in cases. Taiwan has a total number of 538 confirmed cases -- the third highest after China and Hong Kong. Sixty people have died of SARS in Taiwan.
The situation in Taiwan has led the WHO to broaden its advisory against travel to all of the island.
Despite lingering concerns about the disease, daily life in Beijing has largely returned to normal. Schools have started a staggered process of re-opening that will last throughout the summer, and the city's familiar gridlock traffic is back. Beijing Friday offered no immediate reaction to the WHO's lifting of the travel ban.