Rash of cases empties housing block

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 12:00am

Amoy Gardens, the normally bustling residential area at the hub of Ngau Tau Kok, was almost deserted yesterday as it emerged as the epicentre of the latest community outbreak of atypical pneumonia.

Residents afraid that they might become infected with the fatal virus have fled their homes to stay with relatives.

For the few who remain, wearing face masks and frequently cleaning their homes are the only ways they can feel a sense of security.

They remain in the dark as to which floors have been infected.

Companies who employ people from the area are not taking any chances. Some residents have been asked to take a week off work since the first batch of infections were recorded at Block E of Amoy Gardens on Wednesday.

Wearing a face mask, Tracey Mo, a resident of Block E, which accounts for 70 per cent of the infections in the area, returned to her 30th-floor flat yesterday to take some of her belongings to her parents' home, where she has been staying since the outbreak began.

'It seems that the block is deserted, very few people remain,' said Ms Mo, carrying two plastic bags with her essentials inside.

She has been off work since Thursday, when her employer told her to take leave until April 7.

'I keep asking myself, why was our block so unfortunate to become an infectious area?'

Meanwhile, the Lams - a family who also live in the infected block and had been planning to move into a new flat this week - decided to move in a week early. Pushing two carts with a number of boxes on them, Mrs Lam said she and her husband had been asked by their companies to stay at home.

They are puzzled by the government's slow response to curb the spread of the virus. 'They should have introduced the quarantine measures much earlier to prevent it spreading to the community,' Mrs Lam said.

A rare sight in the area was resident Tang Kai-wai, 55, who chose not to wear a mask, saying it did not help much.

'In fact, there is no need to panic. The most important thing is to maintain personal hygiene, and I've used a steriliser to clean my home already.'

But his optimism was lost on the three other members of his family, who have chosen to move to a relative's home.

After a drastic drop in business, many shops in the area have closed, with notices saying thorough cleaning would be carried out in the hope of restoring the confidence of shoppers.

Even the normally busy McDonald's restaurant was deserted yesterday.

A group of shopkeepers in the Phase Three shopping centre at the Amoy commercial complex gathered to seek financial help.

'We demand the property agent grant a one-month rent exemption for us,' said Thomas Tam, who owns two telecommunications shops in the centre.