An expert panel probing Hong Kong's SARS epidemic said yesterday there were significant shortcomings in the government's initial response to the outbreak of the virus, but did not single out anyone for blame. \nAt least 300 people died of SARS in Hong Kong earlier this year. \nThe panel criticized the Hong Kong government for being complacent and not adequately following up rumors of a mysterious epidemic in China's neighboring Guangdong Province late last year. \nIt also highlighted a lack of communication between the Department of Health and public and private hospitals and doctors, and said some chains of command were ineffective. \nThe virus was carried from southern China to Hong Kong in February, eventually infecting nearly 1,800 people in the territory. It was spread around the world by air travelers, killing more than 800 people and infecting more than 8,400. \nMedical experts say SARS could re-emerge this winter but warn that Hong Kong's healthcare system is far from ready to handle another epidemic. \n"There were significant shortcomings of system performance during the early phase of the epidemic when little was known about the disease or its cause, some of which were aggravated by key personnel becoming ill with SARS as the epidemic progressed," said Professor Sian Griffiths, co-chairperson of the government-commissioned panel of 11 experts. \nBut it added: "The committee has not found any individual deemed to be culpable of negligence, lack of diligence or maladministration." \nThe panel's decision not to hold anyone personally responsible for the spread of the disease is expected to trigger angry reactions in the community, and legislators are expected to press for an independent inquiry. \nThe government's initial handling of the outbreak was one of several issues which brought half a million protesters on to the streets in July to vent their anger at the local Beijing-backed government, triggering Hong Kong's biggest political crisis in years. \nThe panel made 46 recommendations to guard the territory against such future disasters, including setting up contingency plans in close collaboration with neighboring areas, constant communication with the public and making sure all healthcare personnel were alert to potential dangers. \nOne of the first victims in Hong Kong was a young man who passed the virus to over 100 healthcare workers, patients and visitors at the hospital where he was admitted. \nMany doctors have subsequently slammed the government for failing to shut down the hospital, which quickly became the epicenter of the outbreak in the territory.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
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CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses