Turbulent days from local rumour to international alert

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2008, 12:00am


Related topics

January 2003

23 Guangdong health officials produce an internal report on cases of atypical pneumonia in the province. Rumours of mystery killer disease spread in Guangzhou.


10 Hong Kong media start reporting on Guangdong outbreak. Hong Kong health officials unsuccessfully seek information from their Guangdong counterparts.

11 Beijing's Ministry of Health informs WHO of 300 cases of an acute respiratory syndrome in Guangdong, including five deaths.

13 The Hospital Authority begins notifying the director of health of suspected and confirmed severe cases of community acquired pneumonia.

17 A 33-year-old Hong Kong man dies of bird flu after visiting Fujian. His nine-year-old son is also infected but recovers.

19 Hong Kong steps up public education on prevention of bird flu.

21 A 64-year-old medical professor from Guangzhou checks into the Metropole Hotel in Mong Kok. He will become the index patient for the Sars outbreak in Hong Kong from where it will spread around the globe.

22 The Guangzhou professor is admitted to intensive care at Kwong Wah Hospital.


4 The Guangzhou professor dies.

10 Eleven health care staff go on sick leave from Ward 8A at Prince of Wales Hospital. The ward is isolated but visitors are allowed in, wearing masks and protective clothing.

12 Hong Kong authorities alert WHO of the outbreak and brief the media.

14 Health secretary Yeoh Eng-kiong says 'this is still not an outbreak'. The man who will become the index case for the Amoy Gardens outbreak stays overnight at his brother's flat in the private housing estate.

15 The WHO issues a rare emergency travel advisory in response to reported outbreaks in a number of countries, names the illness severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and confirms it is a worldwide health threat.

17 Sydney Chung Sheung-chee, dean of medicine at Chinese University, tells media the government's Sars numbers are leaving out infections in the community.

22 The University of Hong Kong announces that a coronavirus is responsible for Sars. A diagnostic test is developed.

23 Hospital Authority chief executive William Ho Shiu-wei is admitted with Sars. He recovers and resumes duty on April 30.

25 A high-level Sars steering committee, chaired by the chief executive, is established.

26 United Christian Hospital admits 15 suspected Sars cases from seven households, all living in Amoy Gardens.

27 The chief executive announces emergency measures, among them a one-week closure of schools. The Rolling Stones cancel their concerts scheduled for the weekend.

29 All arriving passengers required to fill out health forms. The WHO's Dr Carlo Urbani, who brought Sars to the attention of the international community, dies of the disease.

31 An isolation order is served on Block E of Amoy Gardens. Undeterred by Sars, 30,000 fans attend the final of the Rugby Sevens.


1 Government experts find evidence that sewerage and drains might have been involved in the vertical spread of Sars in Amoy Gardens' Block E. Residents are evacuated to holiday camps to continue their 10-day quarantine. The eventual toll is 329 infected, with 42 deaths.

2 The WHO revises its advice to international travellers, recommending postponing all but essential travel to Hong Kong and Guangdong.

3 The government extends the suspension of school classes until April 21.

10 The government announces that all household contacts of confirmed Sars patients will be quarantined at home, with no visitors allowed, for up to 10 days. In total, 1,262 people are confined; 34 develop the disease.

11 Hong Kong and Guangdong agree on Sars-related co-operation measures.

12 The government starts releasing on a daily basis the names of buildings with Sars patients admitted to hospitals within the past 10 days.

15 Hong Kong's disease prevention law is amended to allow stronger measures to prevent the spread of Sars.

23 The government proposes a HK$11.8 billion package of Sars relief measures.

24 Body temperature checks begin for transit and arriving passengers at the airport, and at Lo Wu and Hung Hom railway station.

28 Secondary 1 and 2 students resume classes.


3 Experts from the Chinese Medicine Hospital of Guangdong province arrive to advise on the use of Chinese medicine in treating Sars patients.

5 Chief secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is appointed chairman of a 'Team Clean' taskforce to improve Hong Kong's environmental hygiene and cleanliness.

HK$1 billion is earmarked to promote Hong Kong as a travel destination.

12 Students in Primary 4 and up resume classes.

23 The WHO lifts its travel advisory.

24 After reports that the coronavirus has been found in civet 'cats', Hong Kong suspends imports of civet game meat.

28 The chief executive announces the setting up of an Expert Committee to review the management and control of the Sars outbreak.


11 The last Sars case is confirmed and reported.

23 The WHO removes Hong Kong from its list of areas with recent local transmission of Sars, declaring Hong Kong Sars-free.


1 Forty-one Sars heroes are given awards in chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's honours list.


2 The Sars Expert Committee reports its findings and recommendations.

17 Harbour Fest concerts begin at Tamar site, ending with The Rolling Stones on November 9.

July 2004

7 Health secretary Yeoh Eng-kiong resigns after being blamed in a Legco report for not being sufficiently alert when Guangdong was hit by atypical pneumonia, and for sending confusing signals to the community.