Tuesday, December 1, 2015   

I am no God:Yeoh

Cannix Yau

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Beleaguered health chief Yeoh Eng-kiong has come under fire for not

alerting the public about the atypical pneumonia outbreak early enough

and downplaying the virus threat.

Yeoh began to show signs of strain yesterday after five more hospital

workers showed symptoms of pneumonia, bringing the total to 29.

"I am sorry. I am not God," Yeoh told legislator Albert Chan during

a specially convened Legco meeting yesterday.

"But the fact that I have no clues about this virus doesn't mean we

don't have any preventive measures in place," he added.


Chan hit out at the government for downplaying the outbreak and not

doing enough to alert the public, as Yeoh repeatedly called it an

outbreak of a very "unusual circumstance" among hospital workers.

"It seems the government is out of touch with reality. It only

describes it as a respiratory infection incident but the press reports

say Hong Kong is being invaded by a deadly virus and the whole city is

in fear.

"I don't know whether the government is deliberately downplaying the

outbreak to turn a killer matter into an incident only, just like

turning the June 4 massacre into the June 4 incident," Chan said.

The SAR government started communicating with the public only after

the World Health Organisation (WHO) had issued a global alert, he


He also criticised the government for misleading the public by saying

the outbreak was confined to hospitals.

"You haven't identified the source of the virus. I understand this.

Maybe you need to spend many years on this. But there are some ways to

prevent infection. Does the government have responsibility to send

this message out?" Chan asked.

Yeoh denied the government's response had been low-key, citing a

follow-up by a new task force and a visit to the Prince of Wales

Hospital by the Chief Executive.

"But we need to strike a balance. Words like `Hong Kong has been

quarantined' are detrimental to Hong Kong. I believe you don't want to

cause panic in Hong Kong," the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food

said. "I just tell you the facts what I know and what I don't know.

This is the most correct thing to do.

"Do you want us to frighten people so they are scared to step out? I

believe this is not your intention."

Yeoh said on average Hong Kong had about 2,000 cases of pneumonia each

month, about half of them caused by viruses.

"The pattern has not changed and our experience is very similar to

that in other developed countries.

"So, we are not talking about any outbreak in the community," Yeoh


He said the information they had gathered showed the illness was a

viral infection, transmitted through droplets sprayed by an infected

person, and health care workers or close family members were


He said they were looking at whether the illness was caused by a new

virus, a mutated virus or an existing virus that was behaving in a

different way.

The government has divided the cases into four groups those at

Prince of Wales Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital where the patient

who was transferred from Hanoi to Hong Kong died, five staff at Pamela

Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, and a private doctor and three of

his staff at a clinic where he was reported to have seen a patient.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice-minister for Health, Zhu Qingsheng, said

yesterday there was no evidence Hong Kong's pneumonia outbreak

originated from Guangdong.

He also said he was confident Hong Kong had taken measures to contain

the outbreak, and therefore, there was no cause for international


Zhu also confirmed a team of WHO experts had flown into Beijing to

investigate the mainland's own atypical pneumonia outbreak in


He said the team would focus on finding the source and stopping any


The victims

American businessman, surnamed Chen, dies at Princess Margaret

Hospital on Thursday. Total number of cases 43. Two in serious


34 patients in Prince of Wales Hospital of whom 20 are infected with

atypical pneumonia.

Three at Kwong Wah Hospital

Five at Pamela Youde Nethersole Hospital

One at Princess Margaret Hospital

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