sábado, 9 de maio de 2009

Fim da quarentena, início da festa!

Twin victories in swine flu fight
First battle won, Tsang says, and quarantined guests emerge praising HK

Ng Kang-chung and Ella Lee
South China Morning Post
May 09, 2009

Hong Kong claimed initial victory in the battle against human swine flu yesterday as the last of 350 people forced to spend a week in quarantine passed flu tests and walked free.

And it scored a second success - with many of those released from seven days of confinement showering praise on Hong Kong, in contrast to the initial grumbles of some.

But Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was quick to warn this was only the "beginning of the fight" against the H1N1 virus, and health officials urged residents to stay alert, saying it could return at any time.

Most of those released from quarantine yesterday were guests and staff at the Metropark Hotel.

Cheers and applause erupted at 8.30pm as guests spilt from the Wan Chai hotel's lobby onto the street in a carnival-like end to their week's confinement. They waved and flashed victory signs. Some held up signs reading "I Love Hong Kong"; others shouted thank yous.

Saying "I'm free", one young woman guest threw her arms around the neck of a senior police officer and kissed him on the cheek. A South Korean tourist did a dance and sang an opera excerpt to celebrate his release.

The jubilation contrasted with the frustration guests had expressed in the early stages of their confinement at the Hennessy Road hotel.

Their seven-day detention was ordered on Friday last week after a Mexican guest who had arrived a day earlier via Shanghai and, hours later, gone to hospital with a cough was diagnosed with swine flu. The case was the first in Asia - and so far the only one in Hong Kong.

The virus has infected nearly 2,500 people in 26 countries and killed 46, all but two of them in Mexico, where it first appeared. It worries doctors because it mixes pig flu viruses from three continents with human and bird flu and because people have no natural immunity to it.

At a news conference, Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said the anti-swine-flu strategy had been a success. "Hong Kong has crossed the first hurdle and can also breathe a sigh of relief. In the prevention of the spread of the virus, we are largely successful." But he said the government could not afford to "ease off" and the emergency alert level would remain in force.

"Hong Kong is an international city and the flow of people is huge. I would not be surprised if there were more cases," Dr Chow said.

Mr Tsang visited the hotel guests and thanked them for their co-operation and sacrifice.

Afterwards, he said: "Many of us might think that by now the threat of human swine flu to Hong Kong has gone. It has not. Rather, the first case of infection marks the beginning of the fight against the new virus." He said it was a "wake-up call" to pay attention to hygiene.

The exodus from the Wan Chai hotel passed off without incident. Some guests boarded coaches for the airport and the border crossing at Lok Ma Chau. More than half said they would stay on in the city.

The hotel will now close for a week for cleaning.

Another 61 people quarantined for a week at the Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung were also released yesterday. Three others who had been kept in hospital were also let go. Two guests who were supposed to have been quarantined at the hotel remain unaccounted for.

Hong Kong is the only place to have quarantined an entire hotel. Critics called the action pointless, but the government took such a tough line because of its experience dealing with the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, which infected 1,755 people, killing 299.

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung hailed the government's effort, but said it was too early to say the first wave of the swine flu outbreak was over. "The number of new cases reported in Mexico, the United States and Canada is going up every day. It is appropriate for Hong Kong to keep the alert at the emergency level for at least two weeks," said Dr Ho.

More than 30 other people placed under quarantine were released from holiday camps on Thursday.

Most were passengers who had sat close to the Mexican tourist on flight MU505 from Shanghai to Hong Kong on Thursday last week. The other two were taxi drivers who had carried the tourist, his brother and two companions.

1 comentário:

Anónimo disse...

Cold comfort!