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Hong Kong Reports SARS 'System Failure'

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HONG KONG, Oct 02, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- System failure rather than human error was to blame for the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong earlier this year, according to international experts.

A report commissioned by the Chinese government criticized the handling of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the early stages, when little was known about the disease or its cause.

The report said shortcomings in the region's health system were aggravated when key personnel succumbed to the disease, the BBC reported.

A health system taken by surprise and overwhelmed in the early stages of the SARS outbreak emerges from the report.

Officials did not receive accurate information from the neighboring province of Guangdong, where the disease originated last year, aggravating the situation.

And efforts to deal with the outbreak were complicated by problems that might have been prevented with better planning. Roles and responsibilities of those in charge were not always clear, leading to confusion.

The report doesn't say who was responsible for the mistakes.

Hong Kong was the second worst hit area after the mainland itself, with 298 deaths and 1,800 infections.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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