Former Hong Kong health director Margaret Chan plans to move back to city for retirement

Dr Chan’s announcement came while on an official trip to Beijing, where she spoke to President Xi Jinping and addressed concerns regarding the Zika virus

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 8:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 10:54pm

Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, former director of health in Hong Kong at the height of the Severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, has said she plans to return to Hong Kong after retiring as chief of the World Health Organisation next year.

“After retirement I will come home,” said Dr Chan told reporters in Beijing on Friday morning. “I hope

I have opportunity to travel too, to different parts of China.”

Dr Chan joined the World Health Organisation as director of the Department for Protection of the Human Environment in 2003 and elected as the director-general of the WHO in 2006. She was re-elected in 2012 and her term is expected to end in June next year.

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She is in Beijing for an official visit and met President Xi Jinping on Monday. She also had meetings with ministers from the National Health and Family Planning Commission, China Food and Drug Administration and the Ministry of Commerce.

Addressing the Zika infection concern for Rio Olympics, which opens next week, Dr Chan said it is very low as long as protection measures are property implemented.

“Based on our understanding and the actions that have been taken by the Brazilian government, we feel the risk of Zika infection is low for an individual and it’s manageable,” said Dr Chan.

Zika, the mosquito and sexually-transmitted virus that can cause birth defects and other neurological abnormities in babies if it infects pregnant women, has become the biggest health concern for the Rio games. Since resurfacing in May last year, the virus has spread in Latin America with Rio, the host city, having the highest number of suspected cases.

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It was declared a health emergency by the organisation and prompted 150 doctors, scientists and bioethicists to write an open letter to the organisation and urged organisers to postpone or relocate the Rio Olympics.

But the WHO said relocating the sports event would not change the international spread of the virus.

Some athletes struggled with whether to participate in the event and several withdrew.

Dr Chan said such concern for the spread of Zika virus was “legitimate” and for a new disease there is some level of uncertainty.

She advised individual travellers to take necessary protection, including the use of mosquito repellent, wearing clothing that prevent mosquito bites and practising safe sex.