Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was yesterday warned the government's authority was on the brink of being destroyed because officials had failed to keep the pneumonia outbreak under control. Academics said the health scare had escalated into a political crisis and cautioned that losing the battle would mean losing the public's trust in the government's broader agenda. Opposition lawmakers also expressed fears the stalemate could hamper economic growth and force the government to raise more taxes to make up for revenue shortfalls. Wong Ka-ying, research officer at Chinese University's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, said Mr Tung had failed to seize upon the crisis to boost the government's flagging popularity after the Antony Leung Kam-chung affair, in which the finance chief was found to have bought a new car ahead of a hefty motor tax rise. 'The government could have revived its authority if the pneumonia scare had been properly resolved. But now I think it's going to deal a further blow,' Dr Wong said. 'It's no longer just a health scare but a political crisis. The public is panic-stricken and feel very insecure. Reasoning with the public is no use now. The government should do something to calm the fear.' Joseph Cheng Yu-shek of City University said the government had again disappointed the public. 'Obviously people feel the government is incapable and they just don't trust it any more,' he said. Democrat chairman Yeung Sum said the crisis had shown the government's incompetence in handling emergencies. Ip Kwok-him, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, admitted public anger would be directed towards Mr Tung if the government could not put things right. But he denied measures taken to contain the outbreak were chaotic. 'We have human rights in Hong Kong and we cannot ban patients from going out like in Singapore. And if we close all the schools, should we close all offices as well? We have to strike a balance,' he said.