Watch out as Sherlock Yuen homes in

Editorial | Mary Ma 16 Jun 2021

Covid detective Yuen Kwok-yung was in action again - and this wasn't the first time the University of Hong Kong microbiologist played "Sherlock Holmes."

One of the last times he did was in March when he visited a restaurant in a classy shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui on a Covid investigation mission.

As a result of the visit, the restaurant had its tenancy terminated by the landlord.

So it's small wonder the manager of a Mong Kok pet shop was notably nervous when Yuen showed up there in his latest raid. The manager breathed a sigh of relief only after hearing Yuen speak positively about the conditions of the shop.

The pet shop was lucky, otherwise, it could have faced the same destiny as the restaurant which - while struggling to survive the pandemic - was ironically taken down by the comments of someone who was there supposedly to help.

The administration seems especially interested in the case of the 17-year-old girl who lives with her family in Tin Shui Wai. Her sister and mother were also infected but it is the girl getting all the attention.

Government officials were probably betting that if they could resolve the mystery as to how she had been infected, they could maintain the SAR's longest record of no unknown-course cases.

This could have policy implications when officials liaise with other jurisdictions, including Macau and the mainland, to facilitate cross-border travel.

Unfortunately, the mission was not accomplished this time.

Yuen pointed out a few possibilities, but he was far from certain which one was the source leading to the teenager's Covid infection. That's too bad.

Maybe it's time for Health Secretary Sophia Chan Siu-chee to invite more Sherlock Holmes to help solve the mystery.

There are many health experts in Hong Kong - and Yuen is just one of them.

It does surprise me a little that Chan and her government colleagues appear to be relying on one individual more than the others when the rest are no less qualified for the investigative role.

There is no question that Yuen has been doing his best to contribute to the local fight to contain the pandemic that has already killed millions globally.

The HKU microbiologist rightly deserves praise for his major contribution during the 2003 SARS epidemic and this Covid crisis.

But there is always a limit to what one can do.

Would other specialists have stated their observations too if they had also been approached and properly consulted?

If so, the mystery surrounding the 17-year-old girl's infection might already have been resolved.

Yuen cited three possibilities.

First, the girl might have been a victim of human-to-human transmission.

Second, she might have been infected by the chinchilla she bought at the pet shop in Mong Kok.

Third, she might have caught the virus from frozen food after residue of the virus was found on frozen crocodile meat.

Could this have easily wrapped up the investigation if the girl had not sneezed when she opened the fridge?

Bizarre, isn't it?

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