|Looking forward: Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa outlines his next step in keeping SARS under control.|
On June 23, the World Health Organisation removed Hong Kong from its list of SARS affected areas after no new cases were reported in the preceding 20 days.
As Hong Kong brings the SARS outbreak under control, Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa outlines the next steps in keeping the disease under control.
New initiatives in the pipeline include establishing an organisation similiar to the United States' Centres for Disease Control, and the establishment of task forces to keep Hong Kong clean, led by the Chief Secretary, and revitalise its economy, led by the Financial Secretary.(Full Story)
To thoroughly review the Government's work in containing SARS, an international group comprising nine experts from the UK, the US, Australia and Hong Kong has been set up. (Full Story)
Announcing the establishment of the group on May 28, Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa said the group members are authoritative experts in the fields of hospital management, epidemiology, public health and clinical treatment.
Two more experts from the Mainland will be invited to join the committee later. The group will submit a review to Mr Tung in September.
Meanwhile, Team Clean, a cross-bureau, interdepartmental task force chaired by Chief Secretary Donald Tsang, has devised measures to enhance Hong Kong's hygiene and cleanliness - for good.
Outlining the team's plan for cleaning up Hong Kong, Mr Tsang said a three-pronged strategy has been developed to help change the way Hong Kong people regard their living environment. (Full Story)
Another task force headed by Financial Secretary Antony Leung also makes suggestions on revitalising Hong Kong's economy.
A $1 billion fund is being sought to organise a special campaign to relaunch Hong Kong's economy after the SARS outbreak. (Full Story/website)
WHO removed HK from SARS list
The World Health Organisation announced at 2:50pm (Hong Kong time) on June 23 that it had removed Hong Kong from its list of SARS affected places. In a statement, it said "the whole world can now feel safer from the SARS threat", and noted the many contributions Hong Kong had made in the global fight against the disease. The Government and the community hailed the good news.
On May 23, WHO removed its recommendation that people should postpone all but essential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong Province.
The Chief Executive welcomed the decision to lift its Hong Kong travel advisory, noting that it is the result of tremendous efforts by all Hong Kong citizens. (Full Story)
US lifts travel ban
On June 11, the US State Department lifted its travel warning for Hong Kong.
CDC lifts travel ban
On June 4, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention downgraded the traveller notification for Hong Kong from a travel advisory to a travel alert. The Government welcomes the move.
May 24 marked the first day since the SARS outbreak that Hong Kong had no new cases. The second time that Hong Kong recorded zero infection was on June 5. Since May 4, the number of new cases has remained in single digits.
Meanwhile, a WHO report suggests that an unlucky set of environmental and health events occurring simultaneously most probably contributed to the unusual spread of SARS in Amoy Gardens in March.
During his visit to Hong Kong on June 15 -16, WHO Executive Director of Communicable Diseases Dr David Heymann said Hong Kong could be removed from the list of areas with local recent SARS transmission 20 days after the last case was isolated, noting that the last SARS case was hospitalised on June 3. (Full Story)
SARS claims 6 frontline medical workers
SARS has so far claimed the life of six frontline medical workers. They were Lau Wing-kai, a 38-year-old Tuen Mun Hospital nurse; Tse Yuen-man, a 35-year-old doctor in the department of medicine and geriatrics at Tuen Mun Hospital; Tang Heung-mei, a 36-year-old United Christian Hospital healthcare assistant; Lau Kam-yung, a 47-year-old United Christian Hospital healthcare assistant, Cheng Ha-yan, a 30-year-old doctor at Tai Po Hospital, and Wong Kang-tai, a 53-year-old ward attendant at Prince of Wales Hospital.
Entry of freighter with suspected SARS patients
A Malaysian registered cargo vessel moored to the northwest of Lamma Island on May 4 after receiving permission to land in Hong Kong. (Full Story)
Its shipping agent said 10 of its mostly Indian crew members had come down with SARS-like symptoms.
The sick crewmen were taken to Princess Margaret Hospital for tests, and X-rays and blood tests confirmed they had not contracted the virus. They left Hong Kong waters on their freighter on May 5. (Full Story)
$11.8 billion economic-relief package announced
To relieve the difficulties of sectors hit by the outbreak of atypical pneumonia, Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa outlined a package of economic-relief measures worth about $11.8 billion on April 23.
The relief package consists of a concession of rates, water and sewerage charges and effluent surcharges, waiving licensing fees for a number of businesses, and a partial rebate of salaries tax.
Other measures include setting up a loan-guarantee scheme for the four hardest hit sectors, creation of 21,500 training places and short-term jobs, as well as an allocation of $1.3 billion for disease control and medical research. (Full Story)
Taiwan's isolation of 32 HK tourists
On April 26, 32 members of a package-tour party were forced to isolate themselves inside their Taipei hotel rooms after a 6-year-old girl in the group developed a fever.
On April 29, Taiwan authorities agreed to allow the group to return to Hong Kong and a special charter, Dragonair flight KA8481, was arranged to take them back. (Full Story)
Since the disease started striking down people in the city, the Government has taken a series of actions to curb its spread and limit its impact on the economy.
Hong Kong-wide cleansing campaign
As one of the many measures set out by the Government to fight against atypical pneumonia, a Hong Kong-wide cleansing campaign took place during the Easter weekend. (Full Story)
Participating actively in the campaign, Mr Tung urged people to resume their normal lives and remain vigilant since the disease will co-exist with Hong Kong for a while. (Full Story)
A number of bureau secretaries also took part in district functions to arouse public awareness of the importance of good environmental and personal hygiene. (Full Story)
Meanwhile, Operation UNITE, a multi-sector, action-oriented campaign, was launched during the Easter holidays to show Hong Kong's solidarity and underscore to the world our determination to beat the disease. (Full Story)
Quarantine set to prevent disease spread
Starting on March 31, the Department of Health invoked the Quarantine & Prevention of Disease Ordinance. People who had come into close contact with someone known to have developed the disease were asked to report to one of four specified Department of Health clinics for a daily medical check.
If they showed symptoms of the disease, they were sent to hospital for treatment. If they did not show signs, they were asked to report back to the Department of Health offices for a daily check up for 10 days. During that time, they are required to stay in their homes and avoid contact with other people. (Full Story)
On April 10, the Government announced that it would strictly enforce home quarantine for people known to have had close contact with someone who has the disease, including all members of the patient's household.
These people would be required to stay in their homes for 10 days. They would not be allowed to leave their flat without express permission in writing from the Department of Health. (Full Story)
On April 24, Director of Health Dr Margaret Chan announced that, from April 25, home-confinement arrangements for families of atypical pneumonia patients would extend to 'suspect' cases. (Full Story)
Unusual outbreak at Amoy Gardens sparks isolation order
On March 31, Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong announced that the Government had made the exceptional move of isolating a residential tower in Amoy Gardens, a Ngau Tau Kok estate. (Full Story)
A day later, the 241 residents who were under the isolation order were moved to Government holiday villages, easing their fears that they might catch the disease inside their building. (Full Story)
The isolation order ended at midnight, April 9.
A subsequent report of the outbreak at Amoy Gardens suggested the virus spread mainly through environmental contamination and ruled out airborne transmission of the disease. (Full Story)
Hoax triggers shopping stampede
On April 1, responding to media reports, Director of Health Dr Margaret Chan refuted rumours that Hong Kong would declare itself an infected area.
That evening, Police arrested a 14-year-old boy for allegedly posting the bogus news on a website. He has been released on bail of $1,000 and needs to report to the Police three weeks later. (Full Story)
WHO issues advisory against travel to Hong Kong
On April 3, the World Health Organisation issued a travel advisory, recommending that people not travel to Hong Kong or Guangdong Province. In response, the Chief Executive noted that it would not have much more of an impact on Hong Kong than the outbreak itelf.
"Before the announcement of the WHO travel advisory, actually we had already noticed all the cancellations of people who planned visits to Hong Kong," Tung Chee Hwa said, "whether it be in the area of commerce, whether they are coming for a good time, whether they are visiting friends and relatives.
"This is understandable. What WHO has done is merely a confirmation of what has been happening." (Full Story)
On April 27, WHO experts arrived in Hong Kong and joined the Department of Health's ongoing investigation into environmental factors that may aid the spread of the virus that causes atypical pneumonia. (Full Story)
On May 6, WHO's Executive Director for Communicable Disease, Dr David Heymann had a videoconference with Hong Kong officials to discuss WHO's travelling advisory. (Full Story)
HK traders prevented from attending Swiss fair
On April 3, the Swiss Federal Council decreed that there would be no "employment or engagement" of people who have visited Hong Kong in the World Jewellery and Watch Fair 2003 in Basel, owing to the atypical pneumonia outbreak.
The 317 Hong Kong exhibitors were barred from manning their booths at this fair. The Trade Development Council is seeking more information and legal advice on their behalf.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Commerce, Industry & Technology Henry Tang expressed anger and regret over the Swiss Government's decision. (Full Story)
Hong Kong-Mainland ties strengthened
Another important step to be taken by the Government is sharing data about atypical pneumonia with health authorities in Guangdong. Hong Kong and the Mainland are establishing an effective communications channel "to effectively and forcefully combat this disease".
On April 12, during an inspection tour to Guangdong, President Hu Jintao met Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in Shenzhen. He reiterated the Central Government's concern about the well-being and health of the Hong Kong people, and the efforts to prevent and defeat the disease.
He added that the Central Government will give full support to Hong Kong and help the city win the fight against atypical pneumonia.
Mr Hu also asked Mr Tung to send his regards to patients and convey his gratitude to medical staff as well as Government and social workers who help to fight the virus. (Full Story)
On April 29, attending the Special ASEAN-China Leaders Meeting on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Bangkok, Premier Wen Jiabao said he is delighted to see that the atypical pneumonia situation in Hong Kong has stabilised. (Full Story)
Travel measures take effect
Starting on March 29, all immigration control checkpoints adopted health-declaration procedures. The Department of Health has officers at these points, to check people coming into Hong Kong. "If any people show signs of atypical pneumonia, we will immediately help them," Mr Tung said. (Full Story)
Starting on April 14, anyone under household quarantine for having had close contact with someone confirmed to have the virus would be prevented from leaving Hong Kong, he added. (Full Story)
Starting on April 17, passengers leaving Hong Kong by plane are required to have a temperature check before they check in for their flights.
If they are found to have a fever, they will be asked to see a doctor at the airport - at their own expense - who will determine whether they are suffering from symptoms of atypical pneumonia. (Full Story)
Starting on April 26, health officers would check the temperature of people arriving in Hong Kong at all immigration-control points. (Full Story)
Schools closed from March 29 - April 21
Parents had been calling for the Government to close schools. To respond to their concerns, the Education & Manpower Bureau decided to close all schools up to but excluding universities, from March 29 to April 6. (Full Story)
On April 3, Secretary for Education & Manpower Prof Arthur Li announced that the class-suspension period would be extended to April 21. (Full Story)
The Heads of Universities Committee announced that all eight Hong Kong universities would extend the suspension of formal classes to April 13.
On April 16, Prof Li announced that students of secondary three level or above would resume classes on April 22. (Full Story)
On April 24, the Bureau annonced that junior secondary school grades would resume classes on April 28. (Full Story)
On April 28, Prof Li announced that schools with students or staff suspected to have atypical pneumonia should suspend classes for 10 days. (Full Story)
On May 2, Prof Li announced that primary schools would begin to re-open in stages beginning on May 12. (Full Story)
Progress on medical research
University researchers managed to identify the source of the disease. (Full Story) They have been successful in classifying the virus. They also managed to come up with a quick diagnostic test and effective drug countermeasure.
* On April 15, two different overseas research centres announced they had sequenced the SARS virus' genetic code. Scientists from both the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre in British Columbia and the US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention say the breakthrough could lead to a test for atypical pneumonia in the short term, and virus-fighting drugs in the long term.
The Department of Health urges anyone who has come into close contact with an atypical pneumonia patient, or is showing signs of the disease - especially a fever of 38 degrees Celsius - to call its hotline on 2961 8968.
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