All traders in Chinese medicine will have to obtain a licence before the middle of July if they want to stay in business as the government moves to regulate the trade. The Chinese Medicine Council said yesterday the traders could apply for licences with the Chinese Medicines Board from Monday until July 15. Late applications would not be accepted. Council chairman Daniel Tse said the system would help maintain the standards of Chinese medicine and protect public health. 'Licensed traders will have to follow the guidelines to ensure the standards,' Dr Tse said. 'If they violate the law or the guidelines, we can suspend or cancel their licence.' The move was welcomed by industry leaders. Kwan Chi-yee, president of the 3,000-strong Hong Kong Chinese Herbalists Association, said the licensing system could provide better protection for consumers. He said the industry had been widely consulted before the legislation was passed. Mr Kwan said Chinese medicine could be used to treat Sars. Earlier, mainland doctors said they found the traditional herbs had some effect on the illness, for which no effective cure has been found. Hospital Authority senior executive manager, Liu Shao-haei, said the authority kept an open mind on the issue. He said some Sars patients were receiving Chinese medicine. If the hospital, the patient and the Chinese medicine doctor reach an agreement, the hospital would let the patient receive treatment.