Hong Kong is to stage a large-scale emergency drill at the end of next month to prepare the city for a possible bird flu pandemic. The exercise was announced yesterday after a meeting of top officials chaired by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan. It is understood that the drill will try to recreate conditions in which the city would be on the highest level of a three-tier response system, which requires the chief executive to oversee operations. Attending the meeting on Hong Kong's readiness were Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok, Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, major health officials and representatives from other relevant departments. Hong Kong is currently on the alert response level - the lowest - where the health bureau is in charge of assessing the level of risk. 'We are concerned with the risk of complications after human-to- human transmission of influenza [reaches] Hong Kong, so we will look into what assumptions we are going to run this drill under,' said Dr Chow after the meeting. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will participate in the drill as the government's preparedness plan states that he would head a steering committee to fight an influenza outbreak at the emergency response level, the source said. Mr Tsang returns today from his trip to North America and leaves for London on Tuesday night. He will return to Hong Kong on Saturday. Under the plan, the government will also assess the need to close schools and public places, ban public gatherings and curtail non-essential activities and services. It will also prepare for 24-hour operation of six crematoriums. Meanwhile, Hospital Authority deputy director Liu Shao-haei yesterday said non-urgent services at public hospitals would be suspended if Hong Kong was struck by an influenza pandemic. The authority will mount a second major drill to test its flu plan on November 8 at its headquarters, and in Tuen Mun and United Christian hospitals.