China on Sunday shut down all theaters, cinemas and other places of entertainment in Beijing in an effort to curb the spread of SARS.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the length of the closures would depend on progress made in combating severe acute respiratory syndrome (search), which has killed at least 42 people and sickened 988 in Beijing (search).

The decision was made to stop the "possible spread of the SARS virus and ensure public health," Xinhua said.

The city's entertainment businesses have already suffered severe losses as nervous Beijing residents shun public places for fear of catching the virus.

SARS has killed 122 people and sickened more than 2,700 across China.

The closures are the latest in a series of increasingly stringent measures by authorities to contain SARS in Beijing.

At least three of the city's hospitals have been sealed off due to SARS infections, and thousands of residents have been placed under quarantine, some at home and others in hospitals.

Worldwide, SARS has killed more than 290 people and sickened more than 4,600.