PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2003, 12:00am

Q Is enough being done to protect health workers from Sars?

Of course not. Everybody can see to the daily rise in the number of infected staff. There are not enough health-care workers as it is to take care of Sars patients.

Many are ordered to take on this high-risk task. On one hand, they lack experience in tackling such a job. On the other, they have direct contact with these patients but it seems that they're being given no clear and concrete guidelines. I thought it was ridiculous when Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong said: 'Health-care workers have to get used to protecting themselves by taking precautionary measures.'

No doubt, they know the importance of taking precautions. But how? Lack of protective clothing, training and experience certainly contribute to the high infection rate. Protection for them is essential. Diana Wong, Tseung Kwan O

Q Has the government reacted too slowly to the pneumonia outbreak?

There are many metaphors that can be used to create a vision of policymakers' behaviour. One apt one is: shutting the door after the horse has bolted. This is the case in Hong Kong, where instead of dealing with the situation with wisdom and clarity there has been, and is, an inability to make decisions when it comes to safeguarding peoples' lives, while at the same time giving cosmetic credence to illogical policies.

The schools have reopened when the situation has become worse and were closed when the situation was less severe.

The mask-wearing is only filling the coffers of the manufacturers and establishing thumb-sucking comfort for the majority as the only known way of trying to prevent infection (according to a high-ranking doctor who shall remain nameless) is by washing your hands as often as possible.The border between the mainland remains open for traffic, thus encouraging the disease to spread. Businesses and education establishments are fighting for their very existence, only to experience a total lack of compassion and logic. This, in essence, is about education and the ability to put into practice the knowledge, both theoretical and practical, which should have contained the bug from the very beginning.

There is in Hong Kong such a great potential to illuminate the lives of the people. How can you be deemed educated when the lives of people come second to GDP?

Education is much more than being able to carry out commands and tenets from on high. It is more to do with pursuing the value to be found in creating a reality where everyone is valued for their humanity and taught to care about the consequences of their actions. In a nutshell, it is the raising of consciousness in order to become a critical, analytical person who will care for themselves and ultimately for their environment.

At the moment, the educational role model lacks the grit and spirit which should be shown by all in power. Finding scapegoats and sacking them will please some, but does nothing in the long term for our ability to tackle this invidious problem.

Sars is nurturing physical and emotional ill-health, which in turn is going to produce serious consequences for life as it is lived in Hong Kong. Then there are those who believe that this situation has been blown out of proportion by the media.

Yes, there always has been a difference between appearance and reality, but it is the job of journalists, academics and artists to try to discern the truth, and the truth is that indecision and a lack of ability to lead and educate people about what to do has been the raison d'etre of civil servants and politicians, both here and on the mainland.

I hope that some day this appalling situation will have positive results for those who have not been killed by this disease, if only in educating people to act in time. A tarnished mirror only needs to be polished for a clear image to appear.

As the great Chinese sage Lao Tzu once said: 'You are what you do and you do what you are.' Hilary Ashe-Roy, Central

Q Has the government taken the right decision about reopening schools?

As a parent of two children aged five and three, I am very concerned at the rate of infections and deaths from Sars. But I have another question for the appropriate authorities and teachers.

Every part of the economy is badly hit, with most industries facing hardship and lost business. Since both my children go to non-government schools, I am concerned that we are still facing large monthly tuition fees, with the prospect of having to pay additional fees if schools continue into the summer.

Today we read in the news that the administration has unveiled an $11.8 billion package to help the hardest-hit industries. What about the less obvious ones? Greg Spinos, Kowloon Tong

As a parent and a teacher I had been hoping that the Education Department would not reopen primary schools next week. The situation with Sars is far from certain, and in spite of the government saying things are under control, the reality seems far from that.

Why is it so important to re-open schools now? No one can say with any degree of certainty that schools are safe. Can we not wait until the virus is under better control? The WHO does not feel Hong Kong is a safe place to travel to, but our government feels putting our children into packed classrooms is safe. Somehow I miss the logic. Wouldn't it be wiser to buy time while the health community tries to work out better treatment and control? Education is important, but not if it means we are putting our children at risk. Terry Scott, Tai Wai