NEW YORK -- One step forward, and a half a step back.
The World Health Organization lifted its recommendation today
against all but essential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong
province, China, because the situation with SARS had "improved
On the same day, May 23, however, the Centers for Disease
Control reinstated a SARS travel alert -- which is less severe than
an advisory -- for Toronto because of a cluster of five possible
In welcoming the WHO development, however, Hong Kong Tourism
Board chairman Selina Chow said the board "has already drawn up its
comeback plans in consultation with its trade partners, and we are
now finalizing details with the government."
"We've been waiting for this day for a long time," a board
spokeswoman said. "We are very relieved that we can move on with
our plans. We have a very aggressive plan in place, but it was not
appropriate to go forward with it until the warning was lifted. We
will come back with PR and advertising, and we are working with our
partners, wholesalers and retail travel agents on special deals,
initiatives and events to make sure the message is conveyed to the
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the WHO, said, "I
am pleased to note that due to the efforts of the local and
national health authorities, with support from WHO and partners,
the outbreaks in Guangdong and in Hong Kong are being
WHO reported that the three-day average of new cases in Hong
Kong was below five for the previous six days and the outbreak
declined since the number of new cases hit its peak in late
In Hong Kong, the number of people who are infectious is below
60, though there are still other patients convalescing, WHO
All new cases in the previous 20 days had occurred in people who
are already under quarantine because they were identified as
contacts of an infected person, the organization said.
No recent cases of the virus being exported from Hong Kong have
been reported, the WHO said.
In Guangdong province, the three-day average of new cases was
below five for the past 11 days, the WHO said.
Local transmission is reportedly at "low levels" and no cases
have been exported "in recent weeks." WHO said.
The WHO's travel advisories remain in place for Beijing, four
Chinese provinces and Taiwan.
In Atlanta, meanwhile, the CDC had dropped an alert -- which
"does not advise against travel to a particular area, but informs
travelers of a health concern and provides advice about
precautions..." for Toronto on SARS several days ago, on May
The CDC's SARS advisory against travel to Toronto had been
eliminated April 29.
The reinstated Toronto alert means the CDC "is again
recommending that U.S. travelers to Toronto take precautions to
safeguard their health. These include avoiding settings where there
has been evidence of transmissions of SARS, such as healthcare