BANGKOK, Thailand – The worst of the deadly SARS (search) outbreak appears to be over in Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada and Vietnam, but it seems to still be spreading in China.
Meanwhile, governments around the country are upping precautionary measures to make sure the virus doesn't spread beyond their borders.
"It appears from the reports we have from Hong Kong (search), from Singapore (search), from Toronto (search) and from Vietnam that the epidemic has peaked in those countries," David Heymann, chief of communicable diseases for the World Health Organization, said Monday.
Those countries "are having fewer cases every day, and in some cases no more, such as Vietnam (search). So we are hoping and it appears that the outbreak has peaked in those countries," he added.
Vietnam has become the first country to contain the highly infectious respiratory disease.
Heymann, who is in Bangkok to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' emergency summit on severe acute respiratory syndrome, scheduled for Tuesday, said the SARS situation in China (search) is causing much concern for the global health community. The summit will aim to devise strategies to fight the disease.
"In China, as you know, we are receiving more and more reports of cases and it doesn't appear it has peaked as far as spread," Heymann told reporters.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa will also attend Tuesday's summit.
Despite increased government attempts to control the disease, China reported eight more SARS deaths on Monday, bringing the mainland's death toll to 140. Chinese health officials say 3,106 people have been confirmed infected -- an increase of 203 cases from the previous day's figures.
Hong Kong reported another five deaths and another 14 new cases, the lowest yet since the government began releasing daily statistics last month. The latest deaths brought the territory's toll to 138.
India reported two new SARS cases Monday, raising the number of cases in the country of 1 billion to nine. One of the cases was a taxi driver apparently infected by members of a family with SARS.
These numbers bring the world death toll for SARS to at least 332 people, mostly in China and Hong Kong. It has sickened around 5,000 people.
Heymann said experts are aware of SARS cases in Beijing, Shanghai and some other provinces.
"What we are trying to do is clarify exactly how many cases are occurring with the Chinese. And this has been difficult for the Chinese government because as you know health has been decentralized in China from the provincial level," Heymann said.
The WHO on Monday also declared that Vietnam is the world's first country to contain its SARS outbreak, and lifted all advisories against travel to the communist country.
"Vietnam has been able to show the world that there is hope that SARS can be contained," Pascale Brudon, WHO representative in Vietnam, told a joint news conference with the Health Ministry in Hanoi. "It is a very good day for all of us in Vietnam."
No new SARS cases have been reported in Vietnam since April 8. The country had five deaths and 63 people contracted the virus after it spread in February through the international Hanoi French Hospital. The facility was cordoned off on March 11, which may have helped slow the rate of SARS infection and kept it from spreading beyond its doors.
WHO has set a 20-day window -- double the disease's incubation period -- as the standard for lifting travel advisories and declaring that an outbreak is no longer spreading.
Asian governments kept up the fight with quarantines and travel restrictions.
Taiwan began enforcing a 10-day quarantine for visitors arriving from areas hit hard by SARS, prompting airlines to cancel some flights there, while Malaysia sealed off a hospital in Kuching they fear may be the site of an outbreak. Fifteen patients and four nurses have reported respiratory problems at the hospital in Kuching.
"We hope the cases are not SARS-related," Health Ministry Deputy Director General Ismail Merican told reporters. "For now, nobody comes in and nobody gets out of the hospital."
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., WHO chief Gro Harlem Brundtland said SARS can still be kept from spreading globally through stringent travel warnings and checks of travelers for symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
"We still have a chance to contain it and to have it go down in the places where outbreaks are already happening and avoid it spreading to new countries," Brundtland said.
China has been widely criticized for failing to respond earlier to pleas for action to contain the disease, which surfaced in the southern province of Guangdong in November and spread like wildfire around the globe via travelers from Hong Kong.
But officials there are cracking down and recently fired Beijing's mayor and the health minister and closed public schools in the capital.
Beijing on Sunday closed the city's theaters, cinemas, Internet cafes and other public entertainment venues to "stop possible spread of the SARS virus and ensure public health," the official Xinhua New Agency reported.
Police in Beijing and nearby areas stopped vehicles to check people for SARS symptoms, said Li Yongjie, an official of the provincial Administration of Road Transportation. At least one county has barred traffic from the capital in hopes of keeping out the virus.
Hundreds of construction laborers worked around-the-clock on a new 1,000-bed isolation camp for SARS victims on Beijing's northern outskirts.
China closed its border with Nepal on Sunday because it fears the disease could spread from there.
Chinese officials worry that the virus would be difficult to control if it enters Tibet because of poor sanitation and low medical standards, one official said. Nepalese health authorities say they have no confirmed SARS cases in their country.
Starting Monday in Taiwan -- which has had one SARS death -- foreigners arriving from countries hit hard by SARS will be quarantined for 10 days at government-designated quarters, while returning Taiwan residents will have to stay at home.
Singapore Airlines canceled one flight to Taipei from the hard-hit Hong Kong, an airlines spokesman said. State-run China Broadcasting Corp. said only one Cathay Pacific flight, CX510, arrived from Hong Kong Monday morning, carrying 24 passengers.
The radio quoted Cathay officials as saying its crew members would immediately fly back to Hong Kong to avoid Taiwan's quarantine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.