Dangerous Secrets--SARS and China's Healthcare System: Roundtable before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, One Hundred Eighth Congress, First Session, May 12, 2003 [open pdf - 466KB]
In the case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS], mainland China has reported more than 4,600 cases and over 219 deaths from the disease. Recent news articles report that over 16,000 people are now under quarantine in Beijing, and thousands more in Nanjing and elsewhere. These massive quarantine measures are becoming commonplace throughout China in the country's increasingly stringent efforts to control the epidemic. While the number of cases in the rest of the world seems to be stabilizing or possibly even decreasing, China's caseload continues to increase as the disease spreads into the country's interior. A problem particular to China is that migrant workers, alarmed by the rise of the disease in the cities, have shown a tendency to head home to poverty-stricken inland provinces in hopes of avoiding infection. In some cases, of course, they are bringing the illness with them. In a recent statement, Premier Wen Jiabao warned that the country's rural healthcare system is weak and might prove incapable of handling a SARS epidemic in the countryside. Some observers are now asking whether the public health system, already stretched thin by the central government attempts to shrink local government budgets, will simply collapse under the weight of SARS and the oncoming tidal wave of HIV/AIDS.