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[BEIJING] The Chinese government has announced that it is to create a 2-billion-yuan (US$243-million) fund to help control severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which has so far claimed 115 Chinese lives and has infected more than 2,600.

It will also allocate 600 million yuan (US$73 million) to upgrade facilities at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and to fund research on SARS prevention.
The 2-billion-yuan fund, which was announced on Wednesday (23 April), will be used to fund the treatment of farmers and poor urban residents infected with SARS. It will also be used to improve hospitals and purchase SARS-related medical facilities in central and western China, as well as to fund research on the virus.

The money is in addition to the 900 million yuan (US$108.7 million) pledged earlier this week by China’s State Development and Reform Commission, a major policy-making body, for SARS prevention work.

Last week, the Chinese ministry of science and technology announced that it would invest 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) on research to develop medicines against SARS. Several institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have formed research teams specialising on SARS, which combine the efforts of biologists, geneticists, and epidemiologists.

Scientists from CAS’s Shanghai branch have launched four kinds of research on SARS, covering the fields of bio-information, reversed DNA sequencing, RNA interference research and immunological studies.

The central government also decided to set up a task force, known as the SARS Control and Prevention Headquarters of the State Council, to coordinate national efforts to combat the disease.