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Hong Kong Report Criticizes Health Chiefs on SARS - 2004-07-05


A Hong Kong investigation into the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome last year criticized the territory's top health officials for responding too slowly to contain the outbreak. Hong Kong Health Director Yeoh Eng-kiong apologized to the public Monday, following the release of the legislative inquiry. The report was critical of his and four other officials' actions during Hong Kong's biggest health crisis.

"I accept responsibility fully as a principal official," he said.

The report said senior health officials "confused" and "misled" the public about the contagious disease. It also criticized them for not showing sufficient alertness to the potential danger of the disease when it was first detected across the border in southern China.

But the report praised Hong Kong's leader, Tung Chee-hwa, for mobilizing the government's response, and for being first to suggest a quarantine.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, killed nearly 300 people in Hong Kong, and sickened more than 1,700 people. Before the disease was understood, it spread quickly to other countries and sparked global health concerns.

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