BEIJING – China said Tuesday that 11 more people had died of SARS, raising the total on the mainland to 97, as city officials in Beijing were ordered to step up their efforts to fight the disease.
Nationwide, the total number of infections surged to 2,158 -- nearly one-quarter of whom are health care workers, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Health Ministry. The number of suspected SARS cases stood at 918.
Beijing's Communist Party boss was quoted as telling officials to step up the tracing of people exposed to those with SARS and to report promptly and accurately on the disease.
"Do a good job of analyzing statistics, effectively control and cut off the source of infection," said Liu Qi, according to newspapers and Xinhua.
Such criticism led to the dismissal of Mayor Meng Xuenong, whose formal resignation was reported Tuesday by Xinhua. It said Wang Qishan, the former party boss of the southern island province of Hainan, had been named acting mayor.
Meng's firing came after the Health Ministry on Sunday disclosed that the number of SARS cases reported in Beijing had jumped nearly tenfold from 37 to 339.
Health Minister Zhang Wenkang also was sacked Sunday from his party post.
In an unusually pointed comment, WHO said on its Web site that the dismissal of the two officials showed that Chinese leaders were "now taking seriously the need for transparency in SARS reporting." WHO said both men had "played down the seriousness of SARS."
Several universities in Beijing have suspended classes and many residents wear gauze masks in hopes of avoiding infection.
Food and drug regulators have ordered local officials throughout China to ensure adequate supplies of drugs and medical equipment, newspapers said. They said regulators ordered a crackdown on price gouging, hoarding and sales of phony medicines.
Prices for some traditional Chinese herbal treatments believed to ward off SARS have increased by more than 1,000 percent in the central city of Xi'an, which reported its first case Monday, Xinhua said.