Sunday, 3 May 2009

A Nightmare Striking Back

A Mexican visitor confirmed to be infected by the H1N1 Influenza A has sparked off a fresh round of anxiety in Hong Kong.

Not surprisingly, everyone is thinking of the deadly SARS six years ago. This is especially true when you see people on the streets and public transport wearing masks voluntarily to prevent infection. Despite the authorities' efforts to avoid panic, we can't help the dreadful memories of SARS flashing back from time to time.

Most of us are not medical doctors, and so it is understandable if we over-react a bit. As the old Chinese saying goes, "Caution enables 10,000 years of safe sailing." Being cautious and a bit paranoid, especially in highly densely populated areas like Hong Kong and Mainland China, is nothing but a form of the highest respect to their people's well-being. Yes, there may be some sort of discrimination at play here, as the Mexican foreign minister complained, but the potential impact of any community outbreak in Hong Kong and Mainland China should never be underestimated.

When Dr Lo Wing-lok reportedly criticised the government of staging a "political show" in its over-reaction to close Metropark Hotel in Wan Chai and put some 300 visitors to quarantine for seven days, I couldn't help asking this question - Why would the political opportunists stop their senses from working properly but find ways to criticise for the sake of criticising? Couldn't they find a nicer way to educate and pacify the public? Perhaps once again I have overestimated the wisdom of those alien creatures at a time when their behaviour and mentality abnormal by my old-school standards are spreading faster like the H1N1 Flu A virus.

Perhaps the authorities are nervous too. Information from the authorities worldwide as reported on newspapers and television news is little more than a mess. The local hunt for one of the two taxi drivers who have reportedly given a ride to the Mexican visitor is even more dramatic than soap operas. Obviously the Hong Kong Government is under great pressure from previous lessons to be responsive and transparent as soon as possible, but the officers in charge seem to have forgotten a rule of thumb in crisis management - only tell the facts when you are 120 percent sure.

The current fuzzy flow of information only worries me more than being infected by the flu. Let's pray against the nightmare from striking back.

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