BEIJING – Encouraged by falling infection rates, Chinese officials eased some SARS (search) quarantine orders in the hard-hit capital of Beijing.
Meanwhile, authorities in Nigeria (search) scrambled to screen people for SARS after a visiting Taiwanese businessman reportedly died from the disease.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday that 10,000 Beijing residents were in isolation -- down from a peak of about 16,000 last week.
China's Health Ministry reported 10 new SARS fatalities -- half in Beijing -- raising its death toll to at least 262. The total number of infections rose by 80 to 5,086.
World Health Organization (search) experts warned it was too early to say whether the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome has passed and said they found migrant workers have spread the virus from Beijing to a nearby rural area.
In Singapore, determined authorities proved that no visitor is immune from SARS screening. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder filled out a health declaration form and was checked out by thermal imaging camera after he touched down at Changi airport as part of Southeast Asian tour.
Also Tuesday, Hong Kong mourned the death of its first doctor from SARS and Japan shipped 3,000 masks to its citizens in Taiwan, where 13 new SARS cases were announced.
Hong Kong reported seven more SARS deaths, bringing its toll to 225, although there were just six new infections.
More than 7,400 SARS cases have been reported worldwide and the international death toll reached at least 577.
SARS fears, meanwhile, made a giant leap to the continent of Africa.
Nigeria was screening visitors for signs of the disease after a Taiwanese businessman died of what is suspected to be SARS. Health officials in the west African nation believed the man -- who died Feb. 28 -- had been in contact with about 30 Nigerians in Kano and Lagos.
All were placed under medical surveillance and six developed "flu-like symptoms" but fully recovered, Nigeria's health minister, Alphonsus Nwosu, said.
With a population of more than 126 million, Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. Health experts fear the world's poorest continent -- which has minimal health care and millions already weakened by AIDS -- would face devastating consequences from a SARS epidemic.
Underscoring its concerns about SARS, Nigeria canceled plans to play in the Kirin Cup 2003 soccer tournament in Japan next month. Nigeria was chosen as a replacement for Portugal, which also pulled out because of the SARS scare.
A doctor in Hong Kong became the latest SARS death. Dr. Tse Yuen-man died Tuesday at Tuen Mun Hospital, where she contracted SARS while treating patients with a nurse who also died last week.
The flu-like illness has hit health workers hard. In China, state-run media has lauded them as "angels in white."
Authorities in Beijing have lifted SARS quarantines on three hospitals and a residential neighborhood, cutting the number of people isolated in the Chinese capital to 10,017, Xinhua said Tuesday.
Beijing's number of newly reported cases of SARS has declined in recent days. But Dr. Keiji Fukuda, a WHO specialist, warned against relaxing anti-disease efforts.
"We don't believe that we can say at this point that the epidemic is declining," Fukuda said. "It is quite possible that in another week we'll see an upsurge in cases, if there are undetected clusters or outbreaks occurring."
Dr. James Maguire, a team member from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said researchers were reassured by extensive anti-SARS measures imposed in Hebei, which has reported eight deaths and 191 SARS cases.
"Are we totally confident we're out of the woods? No. As we all know, there are surprises that can come with SARS," he said.
Chinese authorities stepped up efforts to keep its outbreak from spreading to China's impoverished countryside.
The first national headquarters for health emergencies is being set up, and Beijing has told provincial officials to set up their own disease-reporting networks. The lack of such a system has been blamed in part for China's slow response to SARS.
WHO experts are visiting the poor southern region of Guangxi to look at the possible spread of the virus by migrant workers. Another WHO team returned Monday to Beijing after studying a surge in cases in the densely populated neighboring province of Hebei.
--Canada's death toll from SARS rose to 24. Most of the more than 140 Canadian cases and all 24 deaths have been in the Toronto area, epicenter of the largest SARS outbreak outside of Asia.
--In the Middle East, the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain added the Philippines to its banned visitor list that includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam. People from those six countries must wait at least 10 days in another country before they can enter Bahrain.