6,000 expected to participate in cleanup to combat Sars

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 12:00am

Six thousand people are expected to take part in a mass community cleanup this weekend to help rid Hong Kong of the risk of Sars.

Television and radio stations will broadcast hours of programmes on Sars starting from Saturday as part of the business-led cleanup called Operation Unite.

The army of cleanup volunteers will also distribute hygiene kits to 2,000 homes of single elderly people and those with chronic illnesses. The kits will include surgical masks, thermometers and pre-moistened napkins.

More than 100 businesses and some 200 non-governmental organisations have joined Operation Unite. Since its founding last Thursday, organisers have raised $2.2 million from sources including Cheung Kong, AIA Foundation, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Shun Tak Holdings, Kowloon Motor Bus and Sino Land. The Jockey Club is committed to matching the donations, up to a total of $5 million.

Rosanna Wong Yick-ming, convenor of Operation Unite and executive director of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, said this weekend's clean-up would not be 'a one-off'.

'It will last as long as this virus is still with us. We want to show the international community that Hong Kong can do it,' she said. The campaign will be conducted in tandem with a government-run cleanup, also due to take place over the weekend. A press conference to announce details of the government cleanup is scheduled to take place today.

Meanwhile, a group called Fear Busters has been set up to bring together residential communities and businesses to share information on the most effective ways of improving hygiene amid the Sars outbreak.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, organiser of Fear Busters and chief executive officer of Civic Exchange, said: 'Right now the roots of the causes of Sars remain unclear so people are fearful of its potential. We won't be able to get rid of that fear but we know there's an impact [we can have] on public health and public hygiene.'

Ms Loh said that the goal of the campaign was to improve long-term public hygiene so that Hong Kong can better fight Sars and other diseases.

She added: 'What we're trying to do is to ignite civic energy so people can help themselves and each other. What I think is great is you are now seeing the civic sector moving. There hasn't been something for a long time that galvanises people from all walks of life.'