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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Sars virus: Are you affected?
Hong Kong domestic workers gather together on their day off, wearing masks to protect against the killer pneumonia.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against travel to Hong Kong or parts of China due to the outbreak of a deadly, pneumonia-like virus.

The virus has killed 16 people and infected over 680 in Hong Kong alone.

More than 1,800 people have been infected worldwide, causing widespread fear and the imposition of emergency measures.

Has the Sars outbreak affected you? Have you changed travel plans because of the spreading virus? Will you heed the WHO warning? E-mail us with your experiences.

This is a second page of your comments on the Sars virus.


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

There may be another 100 to 200 people infected in next two weeks
Albert Luk, Hong Kong/UK
I think some people are underestimating the impact of Sars and the importance to raise the alarm to the public. Some readers are right that less than 800 people are infected in Hong Kong at the moment, which is less than one per cent of the population. However, please do not forget the rate of transmission of this disease. The disease has been discovered for less than a month and the infection rate is about 10% per day. This could imply there may be another 100 to 200 people infected in next two weeks.
Albert Luk, Hong Kong/UK

My best friend is from Hong Kong and she recently returned to visit her parents but I am terrified she is going to catch the disease. I think China should have done more to control this.
Jayne, UK

I have just come back from France and on the plane I was seated next to someone who had joined as a connecting flight from Hong Kong. I should have been informed and given the right to choose whether I wanted to sit with this individual.
Craig, UK

WHO is giving very little information because of government pressure. What about the items manufactured in China and imported to my country? Did anyone think about the virus passing through goods? Now I have no clue what to do and have stopped buying goods imported from China.
Kannan Sundararajan, USA

To be clear, the SARS virus dies in three hours once outside the human body. Therefore, the chance of contracting it from Chinese-made products is virtually nil. When you boycott Chinese products you put Chinese people out of work and send them back to the more rural regions where this disease originated in the first place. Please don't do that.
Steven Wong, Hong Kong

The danger with this virus is not how many people it has claimed, but how easily it spreads. If it was not over-hyped, the number of cases would grow exponentially.
Mark Adamson, UK

I'm more concerned about the weather over the Easter holidays
Justin Hayward, Hong Kong
In general, the fear caused by Sars is subsiding. Less people are using masks and it is not causing the level of fear the outside world seems to think. I also believe that most of the hype is from sensationalised reporting. It is known as "the killer virus" but aren't all viruses potential killers? Of course one should not be entirely complacent about the situation, but should study the statistics on other health concerns both here, and around the world, in order to establish how serious this is. I'm more concerned about the weather over the Easter holidays.
Justin Hayward, Hong Kong

I'm worried and upset when I know some people (especially in Canada) seem to turn their anger towards us in news reports. I hope you understand that we are all victims and we have been kept in the dark for months before the outbreak. No one wants to contract or spread Sars.
Katherine, Hong Kong

Due to the outbreak of this deadly pneumonia-like virus more and more people's health in my country is getting worse. I myself have also been affected with flu - though not exactly the Sars, I am also suffering from fever, sore muscles etc. I hope that everybody pays more attention to their health.
Amy Hsiao, Taiwan, China

Now there seems to be quite a panic
Dominic Smithies, HK/UK
I am a Leeds University student spending the year studying in Hong Kong. The media reports here downplayed the virus in the first week or so, but now there seems to be quite a panic in the population with everyone (including myself) donning surgical masks and even gloves too. Although it is true that only a very small percentage of the population of the HK have contracted the virus, there are such close living conditions here, which when added to the fact that it is highly contagious, things could get out of hand very quickly.
Dominic Smithies, HK/UK

The Sars outbreak has affected me by making me more paranoid than I want to be. My family and friends have been urging me to leave China, which I don't want to. The company I work for on the other hand has tried to minimize the risk, arguing that as we live and work well away from the centre we should not worry and stay put. Neither advice has been very helpful.
Shane Tarr, China

I love China, but I am ashamed of having such a government. Thousands of years ago the ancient regime fooled its people because we were lacking in media modernisation, but living in today's technology the wise government still thinks it can fool its people!
Anon, China

More people die per year of the flu than have died of Sars and the whole thing has been sensationalised by the media. Quarantining travellers is downright ridiculous! Believe it or not, we have over 100 microscopic organisms on every 1cm squared of our faces which live without us knowing.
Thomas Jackson, Hong Kong

Despite the extremely low mortality rate of this virus, great apprehension has grown, largely because of the slow and clumsy response of many governments and health officials worldwide. The Chinese Government has been particularly responsible for utterly unacceptable conduct in this case by not alerting its citizens and tourists at the earliest opportunity that a problem existed. It has shown itself to be guilty of callous neglect on an international basis.
Dan Smitts, Canada

Your whole view changes when you have small children
Toni, Hong Kong
Some say the reaction has been over the top, but I think your whole view changes when you have small children who are vulnerable to such illnesses. I live in HK and have left my husband there and returned to my parents' house in the UK with my two-year-old until the situation is better. My in-laws have also cancelled a trip under the advice of the WHO to HK in May. They are unlikely to get their money back from the airline. If it has been blown out of proportion that's fine, but if anything happened to my daughter that I could have prevented, I would never forgive myself.
Toni, Hong Kong

People are saying this is an airborne infection but do they really know? I am expecting a parcel from Hong Kong but now I don't know if I should have this cancelled until there seems to be an end to this virus.
Robert Dukes, England

I'm in India now, but am travelling to Thailand and other south-east Asian countries next week. I've been trying to keep up-to-date with the latest news of the virus, but on TV it just mentions it briefly, almost like an afterthought. I know the war is important news at present, but this is a serious global virus killing many people. People need to hear about it regularly.
Tim Duke, India

Perhaps I am one of very few people in HK who are not scared at all. I have been mask-free for the last couple weeks and am determined to stay this way as I realise that the number of infected represents a tiny portion of the territory's seven million. On top of that, the medication is proving to be effective for most people. I am not downplaying the danger of Sars but in Hong Kong there are more people dying from suicide per day than from Sars.
Sheldon, Hong Kong

The effect is only going to get worse
Nicholas Kulkarni, UK
The effect on business that restricted travel is causing in the money belt of Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore) is already showing. In the high tech industries of electronics and computing parts, close to 90% of production is in the Far East. The effect is only going to get worse. Fatality rates are only those so far. A characteristic of a pandemic is that as the size of the infected population rises so too do fatalities as health care is swamped.
Nicholas Kulkarni, UK

The UK papers have been even more alarmist than the HK media about Sars. Am I the only person to see the irony of people panicking about the minute possibility of catching the pneumonia bug but quite happy to light up a cigarette?
Sally Andersen, Hong Kong

I had planned to go to Hong Kong to present a paper at a conference in June. Now the warning by the World Health Organization has made me too scared to go there. I had promised my wife that I would take her to Hong Kong, but now our plan may not be put into action.
Albert P'Rayan, Rwanda

In north China most people wear face masks in winter anyway because they ride bicycles to work or school. Face masks can prevent them from directly breathing the chilly air. I wore a face mask for more than 10 winters when I living there. Wearing face masks should not necessarily be related to Sars.
Wei Lu, China

I am a Chinese student studying abroad and I am worrying about my parents in China. I am also afraid that I could also be infected by Sars if I go back to China in May. The seven-day holiday from May 1 to May 7 is one of the busiest times in China. It would be the most dangerous time if no solution was found out before then.
Ropin, China

Singapore took drastic measures to avoid the spread of the disease. The best measure is rapid control of any outbreaks. Ironically if authorities are successful many commentators will declare that there was no need for such harsh measures.
Anon, Singapore

There are already cases of HK businesspeople being discriminated under the guise of disease prevention
Mike, Hong Kong
There are already cases of HK businesspeople being discriminated under the guise of disease prevention. For example, a group of HK watch manufacturers were forbidden to attend a fair in Switzerland, while HK buyers were allowed entrance to the same fair.
Mike, Hong Kong

I am a university and am fearing the return of classmates and college members from parts of Asia. How will universities deal with the problem of thousands of students, possibly affected by Sars, coming back to close living and learning environments? How can we treat and deal with this problem without isolating or victimising the people involved?
Shelley Javis, Cambridge, UK

I have a medical background and think there might be an advantage to wearing mask outdoors even after Sars as I am sure the lungs receive much less pollutants.
Manny, Michigan, USA

War is dividing us, but in sickness and in health we are united to battle the disease.
Anon, Philippines

There is a far greater sickness here and that's fear, panic and drama - sadly the underlying state of the human condition that so easily reacts at the slightest opportunity. There are hundreds of thousands dying every year from the flu. How many deaths have we had here in HK in the last month? I believe the current number is 17. Yes, there is a virus going about the place and people are dying. That's not good so let's fix it. But please let's get some sense of balance and proportion in all this. The authorities, doctors, and the media are causing the hysteria and almost laughable and useless actions we witnesses every day.
Peter Bolton, Hong Kong

If there was no war, the Sars epidemic would be front page news each day
Barbara Arlen, USA
If there was no war, the Sars epidemic would be front page news each day. The US and other countries should have quarantined flights from China when the first reports were received. Misinformation can cause deaths. We should be better able to protect our lives, not our economies.
Barbara Arlen, USA

It appears there are two stories developing in Asia. One is the appearance of a new virus and the second is a level of brewing hysteria which is difficult to understand.
T Williams, Singapore

I think we shouldn't only care about Sars. In Congo, there were 120 deaths from only 135 cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever (reported by the WHO). We need to help them too.
Nora, UK

After spending a week in voluntary quarantine after arriving from Hong Kong last week I am looking forward to enjoying the English springtime.
Sarah, HK/UK

Let us get the facts into perspective. So far 16 people have died in Hong Kong and 78 worldwide from Sars-related illness
Mark Ingram, Hong Kong
Let us get the facts into perspective. So far 16 people have died in Hong Kong and 78 worldwide from Sars related illness. In Hong Kong there have only been two areas of infection, a hospital and a section of a block of flats. In Hong Kong, on average, there are 307 deaths per month from ordinary pneumonia.

In the US 5,585 people die each month from flu and pneumonia. We, in Hong Kong, are taking precautions to stop the spread of this virus. Media sensationalism is of no help in this case. But a cold look at the facts might have helped the American Government reconsider its decision to offer repatriation to their diplomatic staff and thereby fuelling this media frenzy.
Mark Ingram, Hong Kong

I'm really disappointed in the Chinese Government. I do not believe the numbers they give to the world. And let's bear one thing in mind - even if the government claims that SARS can only be found in SOME places in China, it DOES NOT mean that SARS does not at all exist is the remaining places. Do they know what SARS is? I doubt it. They may not even have the knowledge/technology to tell what "atypical pneumonia" is. Interesting enough, places where SARS is serious, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc, are all rather medically advanced. Please China, save your people and those of the world, be cooperative and honest to WHO.
Iris, Hong Kong

Whilst there is no doubt that the SARS problem is a serious one, I believe that much of the reporting of it has been alarmist. Nearly 700 people in Hong Kong have been affected, but that is less than 1/100 of 1% of the population. Of those who have contracted the disease, about 4% have died.
So the risk of getting this disease in Hong Kong is very slight, and the risk of actually dying from it even slighter.
Hong Kong is not a dangerous place. There is no evidence at all that the virus is airborne, so travellers need have nothing to fear. As always, the fear of the disease is a far greater problem than the disease itself. Some perspective please!
Roy Allen, Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong SAR from London on 1st April to be greeted by masks and long queues at immigration. In Kowloon, I have seen no evidence of panic buying, but I am getting strange looks from locals as I am not wearing a mask. A mask is only being recommended by the HK DOH here, for those with existing respiratory infections - I'm sure that a mask only limits the spread, (phlegm and so on), but not the acquisition.
Chris Barham, Hong Kong SAR, China

In Hong Kong, it is time we stop finding out who is wrong and what should have been done and start doing what should be done. I think it is high time we all realized our civic duties, which includes; if you suspect you are sick, keep away from public places and self-quarantine yourself.
Hema, Hong Kong

All of my friends and family who are still in China told me that they have no idea about what's going on in Hong Kong at all. The Chinese government seems like just hold back all information. I'm just wondering what is the government going to do about this horrible virus.
Chun, China

Having lived in Hong Kong for many years, I know what sensationalism the local media produce. They are ill-informed rumour-mongers at the best of times
Kim, Sydney, Australia
Having lived in Hong Kong for many years, I know what sensationalism the local media produce. They are ill-informed rumour-mongers at the best of times, and with a dangerous pneumonia on the loose, probably more of a hindrance than a help.
If you want factual information on SARS, consult with the websites for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and the World Health Organisation website for their information.
Kim, Sydney, Australia

Rampant population growth, urban crowding, poverty, globalisation, environmental change, and overuse of antibiotics are all factors that contribute to new super virulent diseases. What we are witnessing is a spread of disease caused by environmental abuse and our lack of respect for nature. Welcome to the future.
Jeff, Singapore

Prompt action could have avoided what might become a global epidemic. Instead, the Chinese Government's policy of denial will lead to more deaths. Do they really think they could cover up their guilt?
Zaw Lwin, England

As a student living in London but from HK, I am extremely worried and unsettled by the fact that my country could be in critical danger. Although the media chooses to concentrate their efforts on the current war on Iraq, neglecting other serious world issues, especially those that are a direct threat to human beings is not adequate.
Dinu, London

I am a matron at a boarding department, and have over 40 Hong Kong children in my care. The children are due to go home now at Easter and they are frantically trying to change their arrangements as their parents have advised them not to travel home. A lot of the workers in the school and indeed the day pupils are very worried about this disease coming into the school.
Anonymous, N. Ireland

We have cancelled a trip to Vancouver from our home city of Calgary due to SARS. Here in Calgary we cannot even buy face masks. I am sure some would say the masks do not give much protection, however they may give us peace of mind. That's what happens when you live in "Cowtown." Hopefully all sick people will recover soon and the virus can be tracked down.
Alannah, Canada

Tung's slow action and decision already cost dearly
Dinesh, Hong Kong, SAR
I'm bitterly disappointment with the Chinese government, as they failed to act quickly. The government had announced that they are closely monitoring the situation and constantly kept in touch with the Chinese government. We all know how secretive the Chinese government is. Tung's slow action and decision already cost dearly and I pray to the almightily god to save us from this deadly disease.
Dinesh, Hong Kong, SAR

While the death rate so far, is not high, it's worth pointing out that a fair proportion of SARS sufferers are very badly affected.
I've spoken to a doctor who is treating patients here in HK; and have learned that previously fit men in their 30s and 40s have suffered the worst deterioration in lungs. Some have had difficulty breathing and couldn't speak. They required intensive care, including intravenous steroids; help with breathing (oxygen or respirators), etc.
I doubt any of the folk who think Sars is being over-hyped would fancy that.
Martin, Hong Kong

China should have released the information ASAP, but they didn't. That's why SARS is now spreading around the world.
Emily, Taiwan

1st April was terrible for HK. There was a rumour that has led to people rushing to supermarkets for food and there wasn't a single pack of rice or biscuit left in stores. I have NEVER experienced such desperate atmosphere in HK. People are unhappy or mad here now. There are no crowded streets here anymore and people are staying home. The town is filled with fear and quietness. Everyone is waiting for a better day - I think this day is still far away though.
Kahon Chan, Hong Kong

At this time we should not try to blame some countries or find a scapegoat but to find out a vaccine or at least what makes it so terrible
Michael Yeung, Toronto, Canada
Nobody wants these things to happen. So far this is a new virus known to humans, and the fact that it is so much like a common flu and pneumonia, no one knew it would infect others.
Also, because Hong Kong, China and other Asian countries are so tied to the rest of the world this has caused it to spread quickly. At this time we should not try to blame some countries or find a scapegoat but to find out a vaccine or at least what makes it so terrible. I believe all the scientists and doctors and laboratories are trying their best to find out the cause and find something to cure this virus.
Michael Yeung, Toronto, Canada

I returned from the Hong Kong 7s tournament yesterday morning to find out that my firm, an American Investment bank, has issued a quarantine order for all employees who have recently visited the region. I am now stuck at home for 7 days. The same thing has happened for all the other members of my travel party who work for various other city institutions. I appreciate the precautions but it does little to manage hysteria.
Miles, UK

Angie of Singapore: Where did you get your source from? I haven't heard of any 17-year-old kid who has died in Singapore from SARS. To date, there are only 4 confirmed deaths and none of them is a 17 years-old.
Lynette, Brit in Singapore

I personally feel that people in charge in HK are probably working under much "restraint" from their boss across the border. Given the circumstances, I think the HK authorities have reacted appropriately and professionally. My heart goes out to those who are working around the clock, trying to contain the spread of the virus. My sister is a nurse in one of the government hospitals in HK. She has just told me that herself and her colleagues are having to do double the shifts in order to cover the increase in demand of their service. I believe many more, like her, are working really hard to fight this epidemic. I have my greatest respect for them. People of HK are renowned for their sheer determination and diligence. I am confident that they are not far from achieving a breakthrough in this crisis.
Jun, UK/HK

Living in the horror of the mysterious virus SARS, the travel plans of many are being affected. My own trip to Hong Kong was cancelled after the outbreak of the fatal disease. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused interruptions to the normal life too. Parents forbid us from visiting crowded places where we usually hang out at such as cinemas, shopping arcades and fairs. This virus has caused normal life to discontinue and everyone is more or less affected.
Yin Lu, Beijing, China

Given the advice by the World Health Organisation, when will the Foreign Office advise us not to travel to Hong? Kong
Diane Ledain, UK

It's not going to just go away in a couple of weeks
David, Hong Kong
The fact is there is not much anyone can do about it. It's not going to just go away in a couple of weeks.
David, Hong Kong

Comparing the speed and measures taken by HK and Singapore Governments to this SARS crisis, clearly shows the HK Government lacks the requisite leadership, decisiveness and ability to govern. Had the HK Government taken more decisive and effective measures, the crisis would not have reached this level. Not surprisingly, more members of the HK population wear masks compared to Singapore because they are not confident the authorities are dealing with this crisis.
C Lim, HK

My daughter attends a boarding school and on Sunday 6 April she will be returning after their Easter break. As there are approx 80-90 pupils at the school from the Hong Kong and China region I believe we are going to see a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases within the UK. I also believe that strict measures need to be introduced to contain the virus and this would include restricting all travel from infected areas to anywhere in the world. The sooner we contain this virus the sooner we can get it under control. This is not panic speaking, but reason.
Mary Wintle, England

Paper masks are apparently useless against infection
Peter Tarrant, Hong Kong
Yesterday 1-Mar-03 witnessed widespread scenes of panic buying of staple foods in Hong Kong. About 50-60% of people on the streets are now dressed in paper masks - apparently useless against infection. I have not joined in as only about 0.001% of the population has been infected so far and I believe a common sense approach is enough to avoid infection.
Peter Tarrant, Hong Kong

Having lived in HK for some years, I believe the media are blowing the SARS outbreak out of proportion causing panic among the population of HK. However, I think if people take the necessary precautions, wearing face masks and keeping good personal hygiene, I think we will see the end of this outbreak fairly soon.
David, Hong Kong

I wish to express how disappointed I am with the Chinese government and their blatant disregard for the welfare of their people. I'd hoped they would have learnt from their errors in dealing with the Aids virus, but clearly not. I suspect they continue to hold back info and be secretive about the true numbers of those infected with SARS. I hope the government can wake up and start letting people know the real story for a change. If they'd done this to start with when it appeared in Guangdong, maybe we wouldn't have this problem now.
Lee, Beijing, China

Now that the World Health Organisation has advised people not to travel, when can we expect to receive the advice of the UK's Department of Health or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?
Michael, UK

I returned from visiting Hong Kong on 25.03.03. In case I have been infected by Sars, can anyone please confirm the incubation period?
Robert C Young, England

The HK outbreak is going to get worse before it gets better. I was discussing the problem with a scientist who works with a major pharmaceutical company yesterday, and in his experience the Chinese authorities always under report any infectious problems in mainland China. In fact the figures given by the government are often 6 or 7 times less than the numbers given by doctors working in regions like Guangdong. Obviously this is very worrying indeed. Local people have stared to buy stocks of food in anticipation of the whole of HK being made a quarantined zone and travel being banned. The WHO should be doing more and telling everyone the truth about SARS.
Craig, Hong Kong

I am dismayed by the current advice issued by the Foreign Office
Sue Barker, UK
I am due to fly to Melbourne with my 10 yr old son on 13/4 via Dubai and Singapore, stopping over in the latter for 36 hrs. I am dismayed by the current advice issued by the Foreign Office, which differs significantly from that issued by many other countries, including Canada, Australia ,France etc. who have advised their citizens not to travel to the affected areas. I am now faced with cancelling and losing 1400 or the prospect of arriving at Changhi Airport to be greeted by masked and gowned hospital teams. Is this any way to start a holiday? If either of us contract colds meanwhile, we may not be allowed to enter or leave Australia either. The only people breathing yet another sigh of relief today are the travel agents, whom our government seem determined to spare, at our expense, as concerned travellers. Thank you for your report today. Please put pressure on the Foreign office to act in line with countries who appear to put people first rather than the economy.
Sue Barker, UK

I could not believe what I have had read from some of your contributors in this column saying that the SARS virus scare is blown out of proportion by the Hong Kong media. I am completely aghast at their complacency and ignorance. What is more scandalously shocking is one who said that only the older victims succumbed to the virus easily as younger victims seemed to recover. Well I got this message to the writer: A 17 year-old boy just died from SARS this morning here in Singapore. He got infected after he and his family visited Hong Kong and China just two weeks ago. His classmates and schoolmates are quarantined. His family is blamed for being irresponsible and selfish for going ahead with their holiday plans despite the travel warning issued by the Health Ministry.
Angie, Singapore

Tensions are extremely high right now, and people have a right to be scared. Just yesterday, news broke out saying that Hong Kong will be quarantined, and people flooded the supermarkets (me included) hoping to buy some food reserves. What I saw was disbelief: people were pushing each other to get the remaining packs of noodles. Rice, cooking oil, cans, sugar, salt, eggs, and bread were all taken by panic-stricken people. I saw grannies with several large bags of rice in their trolleys, and others had theirs filled to the brim with assorted necessities. It was an absolute nightmare. I've lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years and this is the first time I've seen such chaos. If the virus is not controlled soon, things could get a lot worse here. I've taken the precaution of locking myself in my flat, only going out when absolute necessary. Everyone I know are scared, and so am I.
Shirley, Hong Kong

Let's not forget that it is largely as a result of the Guangzhou/PRC Health Authorities initial denial of the problem that the Hong Kong Authorities are now playing catch up with this epidemic. In fairness, I believe the Hong Kong Medical Community is performing very well in its attempts to control the spread of SARS and in keeping the public informed. For those people overseas, it is worth noting that for the vast majority of people, life goes on as normal; we go to work, do our shopping and meet our families. Save for some reasonable precautions i.e. wearing a mask on the train or crowded areas, curbing meetings or social events, I think the media references to mass panic are somewhat overstated. That is not to diminish the seriousness of the disease, but perhaps to add a little rational perspective to some of the "Hype".
Simon, Hong Kong

I am a resident of Hong Kong with a medical background. As with all governments, action is slow. From a logical medical approach, borders should be closed and all social interaction should be stopped for ten days (under PLA curfew?) However, the political and economic consequences are too high for anyone in government to take.
Anonymous, Hong Kong

I am French, living in Hong Kong for 2 years. I find it scandalous that the Hong Kong government still does not distribute free mask to people. These masks should be changed daily for hygiene purpose. Today, 8 out of 10 were wearing masks in the MTR and a bit less in the street. People start to store food, which is always not a good sign.
Philippe, Hong Kong

Wearing a mask used to draw peculiar looks from the person next to you, but it's now the other way round!
Wilfred Pau, Hong Kong
I work for the Mass Transit Railway here. Ever since the outbreak, the corporation has provided us with masks. To make it doubly sure, I have personally taken the added precaution of wearing gloves as well when I'm on duty in the customer service centre. All out of my own pocket, mind you. The scary thing is that antibiotics apparently have no effect on the virus. You can never be too safe, can you? If someone had told me at the beginning of this year that I would resemble a Michael Jackson look-alike in three months time, I'd have thought he was pulling my leg. Wearing a mask used to draw peculiar looks from the person next to you, but it's now the other way round!
Wilfred Pau, Hong Kong SAR, China

The comments on your web site accurately reflect the confusion and worry that we are experiencing in Hong Kong. The lack of clear information is probably two-fold, 1 the authorities, medical staff and WHO just do not know how the virus is spread and how to contain it but do not want to admit that and 2 they have not been helped by China who suffered the initial outbreak and tried to cover it up hoping it would go away. So we are left with rumours. The UK FO should issue guidelines so that travellers can cancel their travel arrangements and persuade companies to refund money. The WHO should be tough on all countries and issue strong instructions on prevention methods. If I were you in the UK I would start the rigorous hygiene procedures now before you have the virus. Meanwhile, yes, we are scared and are trying to live as normally as possible whilst being careful.
Gillian Liddington, Hong Kong

This disease is not as serious as everyone thinks
Jay-E, HK
Dear people not living in Hong Kong and those who are unaware of the situation. We all know that the media loves to blow everything out of proportion. Pneumonia is a 'disease' that is so common throughout south east Asia, and sure, we have had 12 deaths out of 6.5 million people. However, this disease is not as serious as everyone thinks it is. Those who have died have mostly been older people. Hong Kong is a BEAUTIFUL place.... I urge those outside of Hong Kong who made plans for summer trips to not cancel their plans. I don't wear a mask, and I don't feel the need to... Let's find something else to worry about.
Jay-E, HK

I was due to go to HK on 1 April, and have decided, with my parents who live there, to cancel my trip. I really needed to go, as not going means that I am likely to lose my HK identity card. I needed to enter HK by 6 April in order to keep it, but I think it is not worth taking the risk no matter how small some say it is. I will be very sad to lose my ID Card and therefore possibly my chance to return to HK to work one day, but unfortunately immigration have not been very understanding with the matter as no formal restrictions have been placed for travel to the region!
Cas, UK/HK

It is all the Hong Kong government's fault. They have missed the best chance to control SARS since the outbreak of the disease. Without giving any solutions and advices to Hong Kong citizens, the government were just too slow and hesitated to provide proper guideline to health authority. Hopefully, Hong Kong citizens are still strong enough to face this challenge on their own without the useless help from the government.
Terry Hon, Hong Kong

Everyone is suspicious of everyone else when travelling in public transport
Guna, Singapore
I have been paranoid ever since the virus broke out here and feel its much safer to stay at home. I'm even cutting lessons since tertiary institutions are still open for us. and everyone is suspicious of everyone else when travelling in public transport. I hope people stop being complacent and stop spreading it to many more because of their ignorance.
Guna, Singapore

Me and my family are very frightened just in case any thing happens to us.
Lai Fing-Shui, China

Why isn't the UK screening ALL passengers from affected countries at the airport as well? Spread by air travel, this has the beginnings of a global epidemic.
Ernie Yu, UK

I suspect the crazy way doctors dish out pills and antibiotics to everybody, coupled with some of the world's highest population densities and the extensive (and essential) air-conditioning has made this part of the world a breeding ground for germs to mutate. Didn't a Shanghai bug cause widespread deaths a couple of years ago?!
Ben, HK

Health authorities covered up the news and let it spread
Adrian Wong, Hong Kong
The situation went out of control because health authorities in Guangdong covered up the news and let it spread. If Hong Kong, with world class medical facilities and doctors reports 15 deaths so far, how could anyone believe China, with their standard of medical facilities, reported only 34 deaths and has it under control without any research done? It's time for China to tell the truth and start doing something or face isolation from rest of the world.
Adrian Wong, Hong Kong

I've been going out to parks with my kids and not really worrying about it too much, but I do wonder if I should perhaps be taking more precautions. People seem confused as to how it is actually spread. I'm not sure that wearing masks is going to help people as I've heard that it can be caught by touch. Most people are generally unclear as to what they can do to protect themselves and their families.
Loops, Singapore

The border with China remains open and busy with many people returning to their native villages for an important festival this weekend. We do not know how bad the situation is across the border as a news blackout is in force. Most people apparently do get better but WHO says mortality is higher amongst older people with existing health problems. We have been told to wash our hands with liquid soap frequently. All schools and universities have been closed for a week. My advice is that you should not come to Hong Kong until much more is known about the disease.
Nigel Huckstep, Hong Kong SAR, China

I was a patient at an infected hospital
Patrick Sullivan, Canada
I am affected as I was a patient for a few hours at the emergency department of an infected hospital. I am now in voluntary quarantine. Why has Canada not stopped flights from the source of the illness until it is contained? Does it not make common sense?
Patrick Sullivan, Canada

I am returning to the UK with my wife who is 35 weeks pregnant in order to escape the virus. I'm shocked by the double standards of the HK Government. They victimise the community of domestic helpers (mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia) by identifying them as being high risk as they tend to congregate in public areas on their day off; yet they were happy for the rugby 7's tournament to continue and Wednesday's race night has not been cancelled. I fear this will get worse as they hope not to lose revenue from public events.
Andrew Calvy, Hong Kong

What concerns me most is the government's lack of concern for teachers. Schools have been closed, yet parents are still free to send their children in, if they so wish. Somebody should really explain the meaning of 'closed'. This sends the message that teachers are somehow expendable.
Matthew, Canada

I have family and friends in Hong Kong and all their messages are the same. Make sure you know the facts. It seems a lot of the paranoia stems from fear and not knowing enough. The Hong Kong Medical Association has a very good and informative webpage which I suggest everyone reads in order to really try and understand what is going on. Although there are still questions we should all be rational.

If you look at the figures the actual deaths are not in the region of an outbreak, maybe only 20 more cases than any other year. Also people are recovering. The other thing is simple, basic hygiene and self awareness. I hope it's curbed soon and doesn't spread too far.
Caroline, UK

We are living under a big dark cloud at the moment
Frances Luk, Hong Kong
It is a bad time for all of us in Hong Kong. Every day in the news is no more than SARS and the war in Iraq. Both of them are affecting our economy, spirit and emotion a lot. We are living under a big dark cloud at the moment. People are panic struck and we feel like we are putting our lives at risk whenever we go out. It is already too much. I am a university student here and will graduate in May. All of the classmates have been worrying a lot about the employment and economy. If the situation keeps on like this we will all soon go crazy living under such a great pressure. Let's hope the sun will shine on us again soon.
Frances Luk, Hong Kong

Many people working around the world are very concerned and nervous about SARS, yet when they go to the news networks for information and advice all they get is continuous coverage of the war in Iraq. Considering there are roughly the same number of coalition deaths and SARS casualties and SARS impacts far more people worldwide, a few minutes of your daily news in my opinion may be of interest to the world, and may even save a few lives.
Tom Allan, Kazakhstan

The media has recently been reporting extensively on the spread of the SARS virus in Hong Kong and pictures of people wearing masks are often seen in news reports, but in fact, what we see in these news reports are often exaggerated. Yes, the virus is causing concern in Hong Kong but it is definitely not causing panic in the city. Surprisingly not everyone is wearing protective masks, not that they are sold out because street-side vendors are flooding the suburbs with such inexpensive masks, but people just getting on with their daily life as normal.

My only concern is that the government is not doing enough to prevent the spread of the virus. News of the spread of this disease from southern China has been reported in January and back then, the media has been emphasising the highly contagious nature of this virus. But what has the government done since then? On arrival into Hong Kong, immigration officers are handing out health declaration forms to travellers, but isn't this very superficial? How can one determine if someone has contracted the virus from filling in a form?
Tom, HK / UK

I am not paranoid, I just want to protect my family
Maggie, Hong Kong
I have started to live like a hermit since last Tuesday. I am not paranoid, I just want to protect my family. What I've heard from the local news is that senior patients were most likely to die, especially those with chronic illnesses. And the treatment period has been shortened from three weeks to around 10 days. Since the outbreak, there are more than 50 patients released from hospitals. The death toll was more or less the same as any other illness. Anyway I suggest visitors come in May or June.
Maggie, Hong Kong

There are an increasing number of countries expressing concern for the possible and potential spreading of SARS. Medical evidence demonstrates the outbreak in European countries and Canada. They are aware of the seriousness of the disease, so impose additional screening in the airports etc. But why does the UK Government take no initiative to protect its citizens? Prevention is better than cure. It may be too late to wear mask.
Eddie Chan, HK/UK

The SARS scare has been hyped out of all proportion by HK's renown colourful and hysterical mass media! It may be infectious, but a "deadly killer" virus? The border town of Shenzhen, which is just a minute's walk from HK, had reports of SARS back in November 2002. Hong Kong has officially reported some 700 cases, and 15 fatalities from the current SARS outbreak. Consider that HK has a sardine packed population of 6.8 million, and the period this virus known to have been around, does the statistics merits SARS to the Black Death status? I think not!
John Thompson, Kowloon, HK

I live only 30 minutes north of Toronto and 15 minutes north of York Central Hospital where the fourth SARS patient has died. Our local hospital, Southlake Regional is in isolation mode at this time. I work for a major fast food company here and yes, I am very alarmed. This virus has affected thousands here in southern Ontario, and all we can do is pray that quarantine measures work until a cure can be found.
Sharon, Newmarket, Ontario Canada

The SARS updates on the news now come on before updates on Iraq
Evan Jones, Canada
Here in Ottawa and Toronto people are scared stiff of anyone getting even remotely sick. Heck, even the SARS updates on the news now come on before updates on Iraq. Canada is scared.
Evan Jones, Canada

The origin of the virus is from mainland China! Starting from November of last year, numerous people in the mainland were being infected by SARS. The government took no measures to deal with the disease. Now, we are all suffering. The official number of SARS patients is about 800 but the actual figure is far more than that! The WHO and international forces should take a more active role and step in order to stop the propagation of the disease!
Anti-Tung, HK

I've just returned from Hong Kong and at both Heathrow and my stop-off in Bahrain was not asked any questions regarding my health. I was able to walk straight back into Britain after a year away despite my understanding that air passengers from infected areas would be screened. Let's hope I haven't brought my family anything other than souvenirs!
Rebecca Smith, UK

We were planning a trip to Honk Kong in June. My wife was scheduled to lecture at a university extension program. Sadly the program has been cancelled. This is only a minor disappointment for us. My real concern is for those in Hong Kong and anywhere else this disease spreads.
Jim Ezell, USA

In Vancouver, there are so many people travelling to and from HK/China. I'm really worried that SARS will spread to here like in Toronto. To lower the risk of being infected, my family and I are staying away from public places as much as possible and avoiding direct contact with people or friends who have just been to HK. I really hope and pray that this will end soon or else we will be home bound. In a way, this has had a much larger impact on us than 9/11.
Gary Lim, Vancouver, BC, Canada

I may already have contracted SARS and do not wish to inadvertently spread it
Carsten John, Hong Kong
I am currently using bleach to disinfect my whole apartment here in Hong Kong. There has been one reported case of SARS in my estate and I am essentially in a self-imposed quarantine. I have stocked up on food and will not leave the building for about a week. This is because I may already have contracted SARS and do not wish to inadvertently spread it. If, after seven days, I show no symptoms, then I have escaped. I am a school teacher and every day for the past week has been surreal, children all wearing masks like in a surgical theatre!
Carsten John, Hong Kong

I am supposed to be going to Hong Kong on tour over Easter with the London Philharmonic Choir - about 60 of us - and am seriously thinking I shouldn't do so. I have spoken to both the Foreign Office who referred me to the Department of Health who referred me to the WHO website - no one really seems to know. I have seen on a Hong Kong Government website that they advise wearing respiratory masks, staying away from crowds (in concert halls?) and being careful of hotel air conditioning (difficult to avoid). So all in all it sounds rather frightening. If enough of us refuse to go though then the tour will be forced to cancel.
Elizabeth, UK

The shops have sold out of masks
Keith, Hong Kong
I haven't let the outbreak affect me at all. I'm young and healthy so why should it? But over the previous seven days I've heard of friends of friends being exposed, I've seen more and more people wearing masks on the subway. I tried to buy a mask earlier this evening, but the shops have sold out.
Keith, Hong Kong

Toronto is dealing with its own outbreak of SARS. Two of our largest hospitals have been closed to all save for the patients who were there before the outbreak, and we have four reported deaths from it. Chinatown is empty and about 2% to 5% of the populace is walking around with masks on. We had a report today at work that one of our co-workers had contracted SARS and was being treated. I don't think Torontonians are treating this with the proper degree of urgency, which is only exasperated by the treatment of the situation by less than reputable media sources with exaggerated headlines.
Milo, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I am worried. If this virus spreads to a developing country like India which is so densely populated and does not have the proper infrastructure to control, it could be a catastrophe. Do governments have a plan in place to tackle an outbreak of such a contagious disease?
Joe George, India

HK is still a safe place, but absolutely no fun at this moment
Aaron, HK
I'm living in HK. Just want to tell visitors and all overseas friends not to panic. Though over 50% of people in HK are wearing masks when going out or at work, we are just taking precautionary measures to try to stop the spreading of virus. This virus not only causes illness to a lot of people but also damages our local business badly. HK is still a safe place, but absolutely no fun at this moment.
Aaron, HK

Though stunned and shocked, life still moves on. We are, however, paranoid of the presence of any virus in the air that we are breathing.
Lee, Hong Kong

I was due to travel this weekend but was advised against it by contacts in HK. I spent a week of not knowing whether to go or not as no official notification on travel had been issued, and no one whom I spoke to in the medical world would say one way or the other. As the number of cases rose, other factors such as whether it was airborne or not, made me also decide that flying was not a good idea.
Carmen Long, UK

People are starting to panic and fear being quarantined by the government
Gabes, UK
I was just in HK for two weeks. I wore two masks all the time, and showered every time I came back to my flat. I did feel paranoid, restaurants were empty, and the nearer I came to the end of the trip, the more people were wearing masks, I'd say about 60 - 70% now, and on the flight, I wore two masks all the way back to London. I think people are starting to panic, the supermarkets are selling out of some things such as rice/bread/frozen food, and people fear being quarantined by the government. But it has to be done, and people have to accept it. I'm not ill, however, and had a good holiday!
Gabes, UK

I am currently in the UK and I have planned to go back to HK on Thursday. However, my parents don't want me to go back and take a risk and so now I have to stay here for my holiday.
Stella, HK/UK

My close family members reside in south China and we got the news that their daughter got the virus and was very sick, thank God she's better now and out of danger! I hope WHO and other authorities do something soon to stop this virus from spreading.
Yogesh, India

We are typing this wearing face masks
Helen, UK
We're in Hong Kong at the moment and it is horrible. We are typing this wearing face masks, about 40% of people on the streets are wearing them and they were all being worn by the cabin crew on our flight here. I have been suffering from panic attacks and we are limited to getting takeaways to eat in our hotel room. Although we were enjoying our holiday we are incredibly paranoid and it has put a really dark shadow over our trip. I would advise most people to consider cancelling very strongly.
Helen, UK

My son stopped off in Hong Kong two weeks ago and left his belongings there as he expected to return in a few days. However he was delayed in China and does not know where is safest. The British Embassy has no mention of SARS on website.
Pat, UK

As this is the holiday season, many Asian students might go back and then return to UK. As the main headlines nowadays seem to be the war, many people in UK might be caught unaware by this outbreak. Will there be tighter screening at all UK airports? Especially for everyone coming from suspected countries, like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, Vietnam, Singapore. In Singapore and Australia, nurses will now screen everyone arriving at Changi airport from countries that have reported SARS outbreaks.
Lai, UK

Why is the WHO not advising people to stay away from the region?
Ramz, UK
I'm thinking of going on holiday to that region in two weeks. Considering the numbers and that lethal nature of this virus, why is the WHO not advising people to stay away from the region?
Ramz, UK

I visited China (Beijing and Shanghai) in mid-February of this year for 11 days. Upon reflection, I do remember people wearing the masks that are now shown on TV that are becoming widespread. I really wondered at the time why these were worn but never gave it too much thought until now. I have suffered no ill effects by the way. Perhaps this was detected even earlier than stated in China and not reported to the world?
Jack S, USA

SARS is indeed affecting the life of most of us here in Asia. Here in Singapore, where I'm currently doing my tertiary education, most of my peers are planning to get back to their homeland as soon as they are done with their exams. Like them, I'm also very conscious about my health and won't dare to take any risks to let myself infected with this virus. That's why I've cancelled my plan to visit Hong Kong this May.
D Vinay, Singapore

I bought return tickets to Hong Kong for my family of four back in January for a trip over Easter to Hong Kong and Guangdong, China. In March, after news of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong I decided to cancel the trip. Unfortunately, BA has refused me a refund on the grounds that the Foreign Office has NOT restricted travel to the region. Many countries have restricted travel to both Hong Kong and China. Quite why the FO has refused to follow suit is beyond me.
Jason Yip, UK




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