SARS Madness Keeps Mounting

A friend called me last night from the supermarket and told me there was a 90-minute wait on the cashier lines. People are stocking up on packaged/canned food as they fear businesses in Beijing will close down because of SARS. I went to a popular restaurant last night for dinner last night and it was closed. SARS. This morning as I rode to work I saw an immense line circling down the street and around the corner. The people were queued up to get into a shop that sells medical clothing — gowns, gloves, caps and, of course, a variety of surgical masks. It’s good to see that somebody’s profitting from this insanity.

The NY Times has its most ominous article yet about the unreal situation here:

BEIJING, April 23 — Reported cases of a new respiratory disease in Beijing surged by 105 new cases today, bringing the total to 693, as the threat of deadly infection suddenly became the main topic of conversation in this metropolis of 14 million.

Migrant workers and college students lined up warily at railroad stations for tickets to their native provinces while thousands of residents, on rumors of possibly draconian quarantines, thronged to grocery stores to stock up on rice and noodles.

Health experts warned that hundreds more cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome appeared inevitable as the government belatedly struggles to contain an epidemic it had tried to conceal until several days ago.

This is followed by the quote of the day:

“Beijing lost the entire month of March in the fight against SARS, and now this is the consequence,” said Henk Bekedam, chief of the World Health Organization office here.

Today’s my last day at work in Beijing. I can now claim that I was present when China got turned upside down.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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