S Korea travel alert for HK unreasonable, say health experts

July 13, 2015 18:46
Gabriel Leung (left) says Seoul's travel alert for Hong Kong is 'very strange', but Steve Chung doesn't think it's in retaliation for Hong Kong's travel alert for South Korea. Photos: HKEJ

The South Korean government's travel alert for Hong Kong due to an outbreak of H3N2 influenza is "very strange" and unreasonable, a former health official in the city said. 

Gabriel Leung, former undersecretary for food and health, was quoted as saying in an Apple Daily report Monday that perhaps Seoul's decision is based on the fact that more than 490 people have died in Hong Kong from flu so far this year, compared with the total of 36 people with Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) who have died in South Korea. 

However, Leung said, Hong Kong's seasonal flu problem is actually not so serious this year.

The government maintains high transparency in the figures of those affected by flu, he said. 

Leung said it was necessary for Hong Kong to issue a travel alert for South Korea and advise precautionary measures, as MERS is a new disease. 

South Korea issued a travel alert for Hong Kong on July 9, citing the outbreak of H3N2. 

Some Hong Kong netizens said it might be a retaliation for Hong Kong's issuing a travel alert for South Korea last month.  

Steve Chung Lok-wai, an assistant lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on Facebook that the Hong Kong and South Korean media may have exaggerated the situation in each other's territory.

Some Hong Kong media may think the MERS outbreak in South Korea is as serious as that of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong in 2003, but they ignore the fact that the population density in Seoul is relatively low, Chung said. 

Meanwhile, South Korean media may have created a panic by comparing the flu outbreak to the SARS epidemic, he said. 

Chung doubted that Seoul issued the travel alert in retaliation for Hong Kong's alert.

Translation by Charis Heung

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