Hong Kong, April 1 (Reuters): A teenager’s website hoax about a killer virus sweeping Hong Kong sparked panic food buying and hit financial markets today, forcing the government to deny it would isolate the territory.
“We have no plan to declare Hong Kong an infected area,” director of health Margaret Chan said. “We have adequate supplies to provide the needs of Hong Kong citizens and there is no need for any panic run on food.”
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has now affected almost 1,900 people in at least 12 countries, and 63 are known to have died. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, reported its first three suspected cases today. An official said one of the patients had died.
In Hong Kong, where 685 people are infected and 16 have died from the virus, authorities announced today that they were taking more than 200 housing estate residents to isolation camps.
The fake website scare fuelled dismay in the territory adjoining China’s Guangdong province, where the virus is believed to have originated four months ago.
The hoaxer copied the format of the internet portal of the Mingpao, one of Hong Kong’s leading newspapers, and posted a message saying the government would declare the city “an infected place”.