Sars boosts online orders

Evidence is emerging that retailers are turning to the Internet to avoid travelling to countries hit by Sars.

New cases are still being reported and e-commerce marketplace said transactions have more than doubled since the epidemic began.

Sparkice, owned by a consortium including HSBC and Germany's Rewe and Metro, has a database of 1.2 million Chinese suppliers. Peter Baker, Sparkice's managing director for international trade, said the increase in transactions could rise to five times the level at the beginning of the crisis, based on the number of new clients signing up. They include big high street retailers, but Baker would not divulge names.

He said: 'Buyers like to come to China because it's a nice trip, but since Sars, all that has been turned on its head.' He said the process used by Internet sourcing hubs means the number of trips facing buyers is significantly reduced.

Last weekend, hopes that the virus was coming under control in Canada were dashed as more than 1,000 people were quarantined following another death in Toronto. The man is understood to have infected up to 33 people with the disease.

Since the outbreak, most retailers have advised staff to avoid unnecessary travel to affected countries. Retailers are also using new technology, such as video conferencing, to reduce the need for travel.