Put the tragedy in perspective

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2003, 12:00am

I am not a fan of the Hong Kong government but I feel obliged to express my support for Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong and his team.

There is little doubt that the government had its faults during the crisis. Things could have been done better and quicker, and certain remarks by officials could have been more carefully crafted. Had there been perfect responses, more lives could have been saved.

But all these judgments are made with the best benefit of hindsight. Sars is a disease which was, until seven months ago, unknown to the world and it is fair to conclude that no one, professional or layman, could have imagined the nature and the magnitude of the crisis.

Dr Yeoh should resign only if he is shown to have failed in his duty. This conclusion must, in all fairness, be made in light of the circumstances then. Evidence suggests that he at all times acted diligently, informatively and in good faith. Some decisions that turned out to be 'incorrect' were made after considering many factors and received support from professionals.

These observations are supported by the report. There is no evidence suggesting that this is anything other than an independent and professional work.

Sars is a tragedy and one can understand the emotions involved. But these emotions need to be put in perspective. No one is seriously suggesting that, had anyone else been in Dr Yeoh's position, he or she would have made the perfect set of decisions.

Dr Yeoh and his officials are the best team Hong Kong can have to deal with the next outbreak of Sars, if there is one. We should wholeheartedly support them.