Sars: a preventable tragedy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 2003, 12:00am

I refer to 'Put the tragedy in perspective' (October 8).

The arguments defending Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong and his team are invalid.

The letter says things 'could have been done better and quicker, and certain remarks by officials could have been more carefully crafted.' This acknowledges that the calamity could have been prevented. It is Dr Yeoh's fault that it was not and 299 lives were lost.

True, Sars was unknown to the world but this was not an excuse to perform badly. Dr Yeoh's duty is to protect citizens, whether prominent or unknown.

Note that Hongkongers were lenient during the first two weeks of the outbreak, condoning the government's slowness because of the newness of Sars. But as time went by, we could still hear nurses crying for protective suits on the radio every day. Medical personnel fell one after the other because Dr Yeoh did not provide them with the right equipment.

Look at what Dr Yeoh did not do. He did not put down the crisis when he could have, he did not protect medics properly, and he did not carefully plan his speeches, which were supposed to accurately inform the public. In a nutshell, he did not protect citizens and medical personnel with all his power.

Hongkongers are indeed emotionally involved. Not just because of those who died, but because we witnessed the boldness of officials like Dr Yeoh in refusing to resign even after they had apologised and admitted that they had made mistakes in handling the crisis.

Dr Yeoh and his team might have accumulated some experience in the catastrophe. But their weakness, indecisiveness and rashness have smashed Hongkongers' faith in them. It is not in our interest to give them another run in the impending epidemic, when lives again will be in danger.

ELTON CHAN, Wong Tai Sin



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Sars: a preventable tragedy

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