No time for govt indecision in the face of a raging epidemic

February 07, 2020 18:16
The administration has been responding to the community outbreak in a piecemeal and sluggish fashion, says the author. Photo: HKEJ

The Wuhan pneumonia outbreak is posing another immense crisis to the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, whose governing capability is already hanging by the thread after seven months of social unrest.

If the SAR government fails to address this public health crisis properly, it will once again deal a crippling blow to its authority.

In mainland China, under the leadership of the central authorities, officials and ordinary citizens alike are focusing all their energy and resources on the fight against the epidemic, with local governments taking decisive and drastic actions whenever necessary without a moment’s hesitation.

Such emergency measures include placing entire cities under virtual lockdowns, enforcing strict quarantine measures and even banning people from going outdoors.

By contrast, the HKSAR administration has been responding to the community outbreak in a piecemeal and sluggish fashion, and this has not only fueled public apprehension but has also demonstrated its lack of commitment to safeguarding the health of our citizens.

Due to its poor preparations, our government is unable to provide sufficient medical resources and protective gear for our frontline healthcare workers, thereby fueling a strike and even a wave of resignations among some angry nurses.

In Macau, Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng went to the frontline himself on multiple occasions to oversee the campaign against the epidemic, an act of exceptional dedication that has earned him great respect and praise from the public.

Again, by stark contrast, our own chief executive has continued to come under fire for her sluggish and indecisive response to the growing menace.

It is common sense that for principal officials anywhere in the world to be at the scene in case of a public management crisis.

Unfortunately, it appears our leaders simply don’t have such common sense.

The lessons of the 2003 SARS outbreak are both painful and unforgettable. Our officials cannot afford not to give their utmost when it comes to fighting epidemics.

As such, I believe the government should immediately and decisively enforce a border shutdown if need be.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 1

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Chen Xiaofeng, Doctor of Juridical Science