Beijing and Shanghai have cancelled next month's chartered financial analyst (CFA) examinations as China struggles to contain the Sars outbreak. The exam, which is fast gaining popularity in a country in dire need of qualified financial professionals, is the latest in a string of cancelled public events as the mainland's belated campaign against the deadly virus takes a toll on all spheres of life. In all, 4,237 people had enrolled to take the three-level exam in the only two mainland cities hosting the test, up from about 1,800 last year. Candidates can take only one level a year. While the level one exam is also offered in December this year, levels two and three are given only in June. 'We have received notice from officials in Beijing and Shanghai that [we] will not be permitted to offer the CFA examination in their cities on 1 June 2003,' said Rich Wyler, public communications vice-president for the test's administrator, United States-based Association for Investment Management and Research (AIMR). 'We have never before had to close an examination centre for health-related reasons. Nor have we taken such extraordinary health precautions at the examination sites [in Sars-affected Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto].' China has banned or discouraged public gatherings, closing schools and entertainment venues in Beijing and shutting stock exchanges for an extended period beyond the truncated May Day holiday. Last week, it was announced the national certified public accountant (CPA) exam, scheduled for September, would be postponed, affecting more than 600,000 candidates. AIMR's vice-president for global affairs in Asia Lee Kha Loon said cancellation of the CFA exam came despite an AIMR proposal to adopt the same precautions planned for Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto. The 6,691 candidates in Hong Kong's exam next month must wear surgical masks, and on-site temperature checks will be conducted in all three cities. AIMR said it would notify mainland candidates they had the options of sitting the exam at a later date or different location.