Tamar visits dropped after bug alert

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am


Three groups of visitors called off trips to the new Tamar government headquarters this month, despite official pledges that the complex has been thoroughly disinfected after the discovery of potentially fatal bacteria.

The groups dropped their plans to see the new Legislative Council building in Admiralty after the contamination was made known.

They were among 12 tours scheduled for the seven days from Thursday, according to Legco. The cancellations came despite an assurance from the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, that all disinfection work was completed on Thursday and the headquarters were safe to work in.

Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes legionnaires' disease, was found at 12 locations in the HK$5.5 billion complex, which opened in August.

The shock discovery has puzzled health experts. 'It is quite abnormal to find the bacteria in a new building, as it is usually found in old buildings and water pipes,' said a spokesman for Majestic Engineering, the pipe installation contractor for Tamar.

He said the design of the pipes was 'very common and normal', in response to Chow's comments that health experts would examine the design of the pipes.

Yesterday, a team of experts including University of Hong Kong microbiology professors Yuen Kwok-Yung and Samson Wong Sai-yin arrived at the complex to take more test samples from taps.

The Tamar administration wing is demanding that visitors wear masks and maintain personal hygiene.

One test sample from the toilet of the chief executive's office, six from the toilets of bureau chiefs, two from a cafe or canteen and two from the Legco building have returned positive results for legionella bacteria.

The latest location found to be contaminated was the office of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, the Centre for Health Protection said, based on preliminary test results. The office is located on the 25th floor of the Central Government Offices' West Wing.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yum-kuen, who was on an official visit to Shanghai, dismissed fears that the new complex was not healthy and his own health might be affected.

The government has appointed Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai to conduct checks for legionella on Tamar staff who feel unwell.