HK toughens anti-SARS defence plan
( 2003-09-23 09:54) (China Daily HK Edition)
To combat another outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the local government in Hong Kong has devised a three-level contingency alert mechanism.
The aim is to ensure a swifter and more effective co-ordinated response to arising emergencies, said Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food E.K. Yeoh while unveiling control measures at a press conference Monday.
The three-pronged approach includes comprehensive cross-community measures to prevent the resurgence of SARS, adoption of an effective disease surveillance system, and the adoption of an emergency response system.
Yeoh said the contingency plan covers all possible scenarios. The system will be activated when there are laboratory-confirmed SARS cases outside Hong Kong, or a SARS alert in the city.
When there are one or more laboratory-confirmed SARS cases here, occurring in a sporadic manner, the Level one response will be activated.
Level two will be in place when there are signs of local transmission of the disease.
A steering committee will be set up to issue government responses to Level one and Level two outbreaks. Yeoh will head the committee at Level one, while the chief executive will head at Level two.
Yeoh said the steering committee will formulate overall disease control strategy and decide on measures to curb its spread.
Apart from closely monitoring the situation and reviewing measures taken, the committee will assess the socio-economic impact of the crisis and make decisions on measures to minimize the impact.
It will also evaluate the government's preparedness to cope with possible deterioration of the situation and direct measures to be taken to augment any inadequacy.
"The contingency plan will be regularly updated and fine-tuned based on local and overseas experience and as knowledge about the disease increases.
"We will also continue to maintain close communications with the World Health Organization and health authorities in other countries, and contribute to global surveillance work," said Yeoh.
Within 12 hours after a SARS case is reported in Hong Kong, the health authorities will subject those who have close contacts with the patients to home confinement.
And within 24 hours, a government inter-department task force will disinfect the homes of patients to prevent the disease from spreading. The public and private health sectors and such sectors as schools, homes for the aged and disabled, hotels, food premises and public markets have also adopted precautionary measures against SARS, Yeoh said.
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