Anti-bird flu contingency measures for Hong Kong

Anti-bird flu contingency measures, including a proposal to separate poultry from humans and a series of traffic and logistics measures will be discussed at Hong Kong's Legislative Council's Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene Panel meeting next month.

Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Dr York Chow says the contingency plan would come into force if an outbreak occurred near Hong Kong.

Speaking on a radio talk show this morning, Dr Chow said the separation of poultry from humans policy, which will be determined after a decision whether to set up a central slaughtering house or several regional ones, would be based on the demand for live chickens.

He pointed out that at present there were 30,000 live chickens imported from the Mainland and 30,000 supplied locally. If this demand persisted, there would be no central slaughtering house or wholesale point that could handle such an amount and regional slaughtering houses could be the choice.

He added that building of regional slaughtering houses took time, but stressed the need to study the views of the public and the sector before a final decision was made.

Regarding avian flu vaccination for humans, Dr Chow said it was still being developed. He added that it may not be reliable in the case of an outbreak as records show vaccination can only offer 5% protection against a virus.

He said Hong Kong had more experience and expertise than neighbouring territories in the fight against viral outbreaks, and was willing to offer them help. He added there was no "boundary" for infectious diseases and close cooperation among different countries had to be maintained to fight against a possible outbreak.

Pig vaccination programme before summer

On Japanese encephalitis, Dr Chow said it was neither appropriate nor necessary to implement a human vaccination programme at this stage as there were side effects. But a pig vaccination programme was being worked out with the sector and would take place before next summer.

Turning to welfare issues, Dr Chow said if inflation continued, there could be a need to consider increasing comprehensive social assistance. But he stressed that at present, with housing, education and medical subsidies on top of comprehensive social assistance, there was already a safety net for the needy in the community.

On the question of allowing comprehensive social assistance recipients to live outside Hong Kong, he said a study was under way to resolve administration problems associated with allowing recipients to reside in provinces other than Guangdong, like Fujian.

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