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Hong Kong sets up new system to prevent SARS resurgence

The Hong Kong government has set up a three-level response system to combat any resurgence of the…

The Hong Kong government has set up a three-level response system to combat any resurgence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Secretary for Health, Welfare & Food Yeoh Eng-kiong said. Yeoh said the move is part of the Government`s comprehensive strategy to beat SARS swiftly and rigorously.

The system will be activated when there are laboratory-confirmed SARS cases outside Hong Kong, or a SARS alert in Hong Kong. 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.

Drills will be conducted in November to test the operation and effectiveness of the response plan, said Yeoh. To strengthen the Government`s preparedness, temperature screening and health declarations at immigration checkpoints will continue, he added.

Yeoh said that action is in hand to set up a Center for Disease Control-like organization to strengthen the longer-term infectious disease prevention. He expects its preparatory body to be in place towards the end of the year.

On maintaining close and effective surveillance, the Government will keep close contact with the Mainland, Macao and other neighboring health authorities to ensure information exchange.

A checklist of measures to combat SARS was issued by the government covering measures for 17 public and private organizations in sectors such as health, education, social welfare, transport, housing, tourism, aviation, labor and food premises. The checklist will also be under constant review and improved, Yeoh said.

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