Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, at the Opening Ceremony of the "In the Eye of the Storm" Photo Exhibition today (June 25):
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
A few months ago, Hong Kong was confronted with a new disease, about which we had very little knowledge and no direct experience we could rely on. Our strategy had to evolve with each piece of new information and with the benefit of each previous encounter.
Despite our efforts we were unable to prevent an epidemic. The disease took a heavy toll, not only on the health system but on everyone in the community. The impact on our personal and social lives was as distressing as it was devastating on our economy. Yet Hong Kong rose to the challenge. Everyone joined hands to fight SARS.
This exhibition offers a glimpse of that extraordinary battle as seen through the camera lens. These photos are a tribute to the men and women of Hong Kong who answered the call to serve, regardless of the considerable pain, stress or danger they faced. It is also a tribute to the individuals who survived this pernicious disease, to those who did not, and to those who lost loved ones but still must carry on.
We offer our deeply felt thanks to the dedicated health-care professionals, public officers and volunteers who were on the front line of this hard-fought battle, and indeed to everyone in the community for the sacrifices and contribution they made. The SARS outbreak placed Hong Kong under tremendous stress. But we have coped. We are fortunate to have understanding, co-operative and compassionate citizens, who have stood side by side to fight the disease.
Recognising that our densely populated setting had contributed to the size of the outbreak, the World Health Health Organisation's commendation of Hong Kong's heroic work in bringing the outbreak under control was largely a tribute to the people represented in this exhibition.
Even though Hong Kong is no longer a SARS-affected area, we will not let down our guard. Still, let us take the time today to reflect on the lessons of the past few months, and to acknowledge those heroes and heroines who distinguished themselves 'in the eye of the storm'.
End/Wednesday, June 25, 2003