Hong Kong’s Washington-based commissioner to the United States, Jacqueline Willis, visited Atlanta earlier this month “to establish a long-term closer collaboration” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Esa Tsang, chief information officer of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York.

The Hong Kong government has pledged $1.l3 billion for medical research including plans to set up a center for disease control in the aftermath of the SARS crisis. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has announced a wide ranging program of special attractions and events that will be staged over the next nine months to re-establish Hong Kong as a tourist destination.

According to Ms. Tsang, Ms. Willis told CDC officials that the onset date of the last confirmed SARS case in Hong Kong was May 31, prompting the CDC to issue a press release on July 10 lifting its travel alert on Hong Kong.

 “The purpose of the visit was to enhance mutual understanding, establish a communication channel and to pave the way for exchange of experience and views as well as long-term closer collaboration with the CDC in the future,” she told GlobalFax in an email sent last week.

Although there is no formal agreement between the Hong Kong and CDC officials, Thomas Skinner, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based center, said that the CDC welcomes requests for assistance internationally and would collaborate with the Hong Kong officials as best it can. “We have a very strong international health program and we go where we are asked to go,” he said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Willis was accompanied by Elia Wong, deputy director of the New York economic and trade office, on the July 8 visit and met with numerous CDC officials including Julie Gerberding, director; Dixie Snider, acting deputy director; Stephen Blount, director of Global Health and William Gimson, chief operating officer.

For more information, go to  HYPERLINK http://www.hklookingahead.gov.hk http://www.hklookingahead.gov.hk