Money will be sterilised and extra funding provided for hospitals Beijing officials are broadening their war against Sars to the economic front. Xinhua said Finance Ministry officials announced that they have set aside 3.5 billion yuan (HK$3.29 billion) in new funding to help in the construction of hospitals and clinics throughout the country. Last week, Premier Wen Jiabao already announced that the central government was setting aside 2 billion yuan for the fight against Sars. To prevent a massive decline in share prices due to a potential Sars-induced panic in the markets, the China Securities & Regulatory Commission announced that it was extending the closure of the stock markets to the middle of the month. Earlier, the CSRC said that the markets would remain closed for only the first week of May. To ensure that nation's economy doesn't stall in the weeks ahead, officials yesterday also began issuing a number of policies in unison with measures taken by various state-linked corporations. To make sure that money is always available and that currency notes are free of Sars, the People's Bank of China ordered that all banks must begin sterilizing the currency they receive before redistribution. In addition, to make sure all banks and ATMs are free of Sars, the central bank ordered that all banks must begin sterilising their buildings as well as the air in the buildings. Walk into any bank branch this past week in Beijing, and customers would have found tellers wearing gloves and surgical masks as they handle cash deposits. The central bank also began collecting currency directly from hospitals accounts offices for immediate sterilization. In order to ensure there is an adequate supply of medicine and medical equipment, the central bank announced that banks would give drug companies and medical equipment suppliers an extra line-of-credit to facilitate drug and equipment production. Officials also announced that hospitals would treat all Sars patients regardless of their ability to pay and that government insurance would cover the costs of those who cannot afford their bills. The Ministry of Commerce also did its part in the battle against Sars. To make sure that Beijing's markets don't run out of food and merchandise, the ministry dispatched more than 100 trucks on Thursday and yesterday to help facilitate the smooth handling of goods shipped into the city. Beijing has seen a decline of its merchandise flow as Hebei province officials have prevented many Beijing-licensed trucks from entering the province. The Beijing Cereal and Foodstuffs Co. also began 24-hour shifts to make sure that adequate food is on hand in case people begin runs on the city's supermarkets. Yesterday, the company said that it would supply 240 tonnes of cooking oil, 140 tonnes of rice, 1,150 tonnes of flour and 1.8 million bags of instant noodles daily.