NEW YORK — Major U.S. importers plan to keep a close eye on the SARS situation in Hong Kong and China’s Guangdong province this week, following Friday’s announcement from the World Health Organization that it had lifted its recommendation to postpone nonessential travel to those areas.

While executives described the development as positive, they said they’d take a few more days to decide whether to rescind corporate orders against traveling to those two sites, which have seen some of the highest rates of SARS infections.

“We’ll review our travel policies…next week,” Peter McGrath, president of Plano, Tex.-based J.C. Penney Purchasing Co., said in a Friday phone interview. “That will give us an additional several days to ensure that there are no new cases.”

Liz Claiborne Inc. has also postponed making a decision. “We are going to maintain our conservative posture and assess the situation in a week or so,” Bob Zane, senior vice president of manufacturing, sourcing, distribution and logistics, said through a spokeswoman Friday.

Most major U.S. importers have clamped down on employee travel to the region, though as the WHO and U.S. Center for Disease Control have declared outbreaks in countries including Vietnam and Singapore to be under control.

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