Ebola threat sets Chungking Mansions residents on guard
Chungking Mansions, a building complex popular with Africans liv- ing and working in Hong Kong, was at the centre of an Ebola scare here in August. Though the Nigerian man rushed to the hospital with symptoms of the virus tested negative, shop owners and residents have made contingency plans just in case.
The 17-storey building in Tsim Sha Tsui sees thousands of people a day from all over the world, with many from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It hous- es inexpensive guesthouses, restaurants, retail shops and foreign exchange offices.
Ebola has claimed close to 5,000 lives this year in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. The disease is spread by direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids. Outside Africa, 17 cases were treated and four deaths were caused. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the first to identify the virus, said that the chance of the virus spreading to Hong Kong is small.
Despite the reassurances, the Hong Kong Department of Health held four meetings to discuss plans with members of the Incorporated Owners of Chungking Mansions and representatives of the nearby Miramar Shopping Centre.
Most participants at the meetings are guesthouse owners, whose business- es are most susceptible to Ebola.
"Those who clean the place and take out the trash from the guesthouses have the highest risk of being infected, as they are most likely to have direct contact with bodily fluids from the customers," said Mr Dennis Cheung Ka-yuen, a mem- ber of the Incorporated Owners of Chun- gking Mansions.
"The workload increased and I am afraid of the disease but I have to do this for a living," said at a cleaner New Broth- er's guesthouse in Cuingking Mansion
The Incorporated Owners of Chung- king Mansions said it bought two sets of protective clothing for sanitary workers to use when cleaning vomit or blood.
The managing office also said it dis- seminated health department leaflets on Ebola. "It is very basic information but we think it is enough for now," said Mr Cheung.
According to the managing office's cleaning guidelines, garbage or any aban- doned materials in the common area should be cleared every day, while lift lobbies, entrance lobbies, passageways and any places that stored rubbish should be cleaned at least once a week.
"I bought this bottle of alcohol be- cause of the Ebola crisis and clean the place more frequently than before," said Mr. Joseph M.W. Poon, the owner of a travel agency in Chungking Mansions.
There are concerns that Ebola is resulting in discrimination of Africans, especially in Chungking Mansions, though many have been living and working there for years.
A few people were treated unfairly after the suspected Ebola case in August, said, which is a nonprofit organisation providing consulting services and in- formation of Ebola to Africans in Hong Kong through social media.
"People are getting scared of every African they see, they tend to run away from you," he said. "Even now when I come in to this building, some people don't want to go in to the same lift with me," said Mr Diallo M. Ali, president of African Community Hong Kong
Mr Ali added that the organisation refers people suffering anxiety from Eb- ola to counseling service centers.
"I think one good thing about the suspected infection is that people are more aware of the disease in Hong Kong," he said.
By Annie Lau
Edited by Alice Wan
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