I had the honour of being invited for the above event in Hong Kong (organised by the University of Hong Kong), held on 13th of March, with a small accompanying seminar on the next morning.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 catalysed a lot of frustration with the global health system (which basically has been dysfunctional for all major epidemics and pandemics), resulting in a multinational commission of experts to identify the shortcomings and recommend policies and activities that would lead to more effective responses in the future. The commission was convened by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in the U.S.A. and the full report can be downloaded here. There is also a perspective article published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine (and other leading medical journals). The report itself is clear and meticulous, with recommendations that are necessary and not particularly onerous. I am however pessimistic that they will be implemented. It took a very, very long time for even the threat of climate change to spur international agreement on action (and very limited efforts to boot), and global health risks are just not viewed with the same calculus as financial or military/terrorist threats.


The wise men at the Asia launch of the Global Health Risk Framework Report. Prof Tan Chor Chuan, President of NUS, is fourth from left. Prof Victor Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine, is fifth from right. Mr Peter Sands, chair of the Global Health Risk Framework Commission and former group CEO of Standard Chartered, is second from left.


Prof Tan Chor Chuan giving a plenary lecture on the lessons from the SARS epidemic in Singapore in 2003, lessons that are still applicable today.


Members attending the much smaller seminar on global health security. Photo courtesy of Prof Malik Peiris’ team at the University of Hong Kong.

On a personal note, by sheer serendipity, I found myself staying at the former Metropole Hotel in Kowloon (it has undergone two name changes since), and could not resist taking a photo of the door of the room where the SARS outbreak begun (Dr Li Jianlun checked into Room 911 on February 21st, 2003). There is no longer a room 911 on that floor – it seems to have been re-numbered 913 – note that 13 is not an unlucky number for the Chinese.


Room 913 at the old Metropole Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong


A view of the hotel from across the street.

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Infectious diseases, Public Health


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