Two former regional press journalists have told of their first-hand experiences in the far east of the mysterious SARS virus.
The respiratory illness has struck hundreds of people since it was first reported in Hong Kong and has now claimed the lives of more than 90 people worldwide.
Former Southern Daily Echo sub-editor Ben O’Neill moved to Hong Kong in 2000 to work as deputy production editor on the South China Morning Post.
He got in touch with his old colleagues to write a feature for the paper.
He said: “Being in quarantine is no holiday camp, it’s more like one from your nightmares.
“The government closed all schools for a week, possibly longer, and major events are cancelled every day.
“I and eight colleagues are forbidden from returning to our city centre offices, or even meeting anyone from there, in case someone there is infected. Is all of this hysteria?
“Yes, but not without reason.”
He explained that the numbers of SARS deaths so far are statistically tiny – but the real fear was that it could be a new strain of virus, the full dangers of which were unknown.
A former Jersey Evening Post photographer, Christian Keenan, is also living under the restrictions that have drastically changed the lives of so many people.
He now works for a major picture agency and his job means that he regularly has to go into areas where the disease is rife.
In an interview with his old paper, he said: “When I get home I take off the mask and all my clothes, wash them immediately and have a shower before I do anything else.”
Describing the confusion and panic, he said: “No one even wants to be the one to push a button on a lift.”
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