The government is to spend $254 million stockpiling flu drugs which could treat an estimated 1 million people in the event of a pandemic. In a paper to be discussed next Monday, the amended flu preparedness plan calls for the phased stockpiling of 20,568,00 doses of the Tamiflu treatment in six to 12 months. A spokesman for the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said it planned to increase by 5.5 times the current stockpile of 3.7 million capsules in line with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. The measure would also contribute to 'a more favourable perception of Hong Kong as a safe place for the international community to do business'. The flu plan, to be discussed at Legco's health services panel, projects that 15 per cent of Hong Kong's population would fall ill with avian flu during a pandemic. Scientists and WHO officials have warned that H5N1 bird flu is the most likely strain to cause the next flu pandemic. Since late December, the human strain of H5N1 has claimed 14 lives in Vietnam. 'We propose to adopt a rate of 15 per cent, which was reported to be the attack rate of Hong Kong during the ... pandemic in 1968,' the paper said. The flu drugs would be given to health-care workers and other essential workers to prevent massive disruptions to services in the event of a pandemic. Preventive drugs would also be provided to high-risk groups living in institutions, including the elderly and the handicapped as well as poultry workers. WHO Western Pacific regional director Shigeru Omi said last month there is now the gravest possible danger of a pandemic.