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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
News Release late April 2003

SARS and Centenary Medals

SARS spreads through apartment blocks - Amoy Gardens

Our Parliamentary Representatives should always be looking ahead and planning for the long term. They should not merely be reacting to short-term occurrences. They should be planning properly to reduce long-term risks and not wait for catastrophes to happen.

The Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic is becoming a source of world-wide concern. More and more cases of this new viral pneumonia-like disease are being reported - the number of cases to date is 4439 and the death toll 263.

It is noticeable that the reportedly worst affected regions are those of high population densities - China, Hong Kong and Singapore (5000 people per sq km). It is also noticeable how quickly the disease can spread in a unit block. This, as we are well aware, is the type of living that the Department of Planning is steadily forcing onto Sydney communities.

The Hong Kong Department of Health has produced a report which can be found on the Sydney Morning Herald website on the outbreak of SARS that occurred among residents of Amoy Gardens, Kowloon Bay. The report states that the first case of the outbreak was a 33-year-old man who lived in Shenzhen. He developed SARS symptoms on 14 March 2003 when he visited his brother who owned a flat in Amoy Gardens. He was having diarrhoea at that time and he used the toilet. In just a month from then there were a total of 321 SARS cases in Amoy Gardens.

The Department of Health report reveals that each bathroom in the Amoy Gardens units is fitted with a U-shaped water trap which to function properly must be sufficiently filled with water. But if the tenant had the habit of mopping up the floor while cleaning instead of flooding the area with sufficient water to allow some water to drain away through the floor trap, the trap could become dry.

A dry U-trap allowed infected droplets from the drainage system to enter through the floor drain when the bathroom exhaust fan was being used. Contaminated droplets could then have deposited the SARS virus on various surfaces, such as floor mats, towels, toiletries and other bathroom equipment. The bathrooms in apartment units of Amoy Gardens were generally small in size (about 3.5 square metres) which increased the chance of exposure.

The report indicates that the rapid spread of the virus through Amoy Gardens was through the sewage system and then through person-to-person contact and the use of shared communal facilities such as lifts and staircases.

Of course we cannot all live in single-residential houses, in which situation the chance of such disease spread is reduced. People should be free to assess the pros and cons and choose the lifestyle of their choice. But there is no reason for the Department of Planning to coerce communities into high-density if the residents generally do not wish this type of development in their neighbourhood. It is reasonable to assume that the risk to the whole community is increased as more pockets of high-density are introduced.

High densities also increase the risk from other types of catastrophes such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Our government should be planning to decrease risk and not be increasing the chance of such possibilities.

With increasing densities in world communities an outbreak like SARS has been waiting to happen. There will undoubtedly be more calamities if the trend continues.

Centenary Medals

On a much more cheerful note, SOS committee members Jean Posen, Kathy Cowley and Keith Daniels were awarded Centenary Medals on Anzac Day. Congratulations!

Tony Recsei
Save Our Suburbs (SOS)

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