BEIJING - China ratcheted up its anti-Sars efforts, ordering temperature checks at all ports and daily reports from local health authorities, after announcing two confirmed and two suspected Sars cases on Friday.

China's Health Ministry told local authorities to 'enhance Sars preventative measures' and 'spare no efforts' to prevent transmission of the virus in hospitals. -- REUTERS

Citing an official from the Health Ministry, the official Xinhua News Agency said that Beijing and the central province of Anhui each had one confirmed case and one suspected case of the disease.

No other details were given in the brief dispatch.

But earlier reports on the suspected cases cited a 20-year-old nurse and a 26-year-old woman who studied in Beijing but travelled to Anhui province.

The cause of the infections are under investigation, Xinhua said, and both women have been isolated.

The cases are the first reported since China's initial outbreak of the disease subsided last summer.

Health officials have also isolated at least five other people who reported suffering fevers, and were monitoring at least 171 others who also had contact with the patient in Beijing.

State-run newspapers gave blanket coverage to the Beijing case. Newspapers were filled with photos of doctors covered head-to-toe in white protective suits talking to a woman in a hospital bed, identified as the 20-year-old nurse.

The papers also carried an emergency announcement by the health ministry saying that temperature checks will be taken at all ports of entry. 'Anyone who has a temperature over 38 deg C will be taken to the hospital,' the announcement said, adding: 'No one will be exempt.'

All public facilities will also have to be disinfected, it said.

China's Health Ministry on Thursday told local authorities to 'enhance Sars preventative measures' and 'spare no efforts' to prevent transmission of the virus in hospitals, Xinhua reported.

Local authorities were told to resume filing daily status reports on the disease, even if they had no cases, it said.

LAST year, China received harsh international criticism for withholding information about Sars when it first broke out, but Beijing later pledged to be more open.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome triggered a global health crisis last year that killed 774 people -- 349 of them in mainland China. More than 8,000 were sickened around the world.

In December 2003 and January this year, four cases were reported in the southern Guangdong province where the flu-like disease first emerged, but all four patients recovered. -- AP


Asian health ministers agreed on Friday to build more research laboratories and establish an outbreak warning network to protect their people when diseases like Sars and bird flu emerge.

Ministers and senior officials from the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations,
China, Japan and South Korea were scheduled to wrap up a two-day meeting that focused on how to respond swiftly to fresh diseases that the authorities warn will almost certainly emerge.

'It is our sublime duty as Ministers of Health to provide our people with a healthier region to live in, free from diseases and other new health hazards,' said Malaysian health minister Chua Soi Lek.

He said the ministers agreed at the meeting in Penang to set up 'a functional regional network to
detect, verify and report emerging disease threats'.