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‘Third wave of infections will come from mainland’

2020-04-05 HKT 19:21
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  • Yuen Kwok-yung says a third wave of infections in Hong Kong will in all likelihood be caused by mainlanders going back to work en masse. Photo: RTHK
    Yuen Kwok-yung says a third wave of infections in Hong Kong will in all likelihood be caused by mainlanders going back to work en masse. Photo: RTHK
Leading University of Hong Kong microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung on Sunday warned that the mainland is facing another wave of infections that could eventually bring a ‘third wave’ of cases to Hong Kong.

Professor Yuen noted on a radio programme that the authorities in Guangdong had reported five new cases of Covid-19 with no known origin, and postulated that they may be related to the recent return of overseas Chinese from virus hotspots like the United States or Europe.

This, he said, could easily become another wave of infections in the mainland, where many people have been going back to work and resuming economic activities after an extended period in lockdown.

“There’s a chance for a third wave of infections in Hong Kong, and that will definitely be linked to people [on the mainland] going back to work and resuming production”, he said.

Yuen warned that the current surge in infections here, that he described as the ‘second wave’, is driven by residents returning from overseas countries.

But the ‘third wave’, he said, will likely come from the mainland.

“This kind of cycle will continue on and on until we have an effective vaccine or we acquire herd immunity, where about 60-70 percent, or even 70-80 percent of people are immune to Covid-19.”

The outspoken scientist, who has been advising the government on its coronavirus response, also apologised for previous comments he made to RTHK criticising some unnamed officials for being complacent in the face of the grave threat from Covid-19.

He had his comments — that some officials “didn’t shed tears before they see the coffins” — were made in the heat of the moment.

“I have to apologise here to everyone because when I’m too worked up, I might use language that’s too extreme”, Yuen explained.

“I don’t really mean to use such strong language, it’s just that inside I’m too nervous and I don’t see any reason to be optimistic about the situation.”

But at the same time, he continued to make provocative comments, urging Chinese people to raise their civic awareness — citing Japanese and German people as an example to follow.

Yuen said if there’s one thing to learn from the coronavirus pandemic is that many people disrespect the lives of wild animals — insisting on consuming a variety of animals even though they already have plenty of choices like beef, pork, poultry and mutton.

The scientist — who had previously retracted a newspaper column he co-wrote with a colleague after a backlash to their contention that “Sars 3.0” could materialise if the mainland doesn’t change their habit of eating wild animals — said gathering all sorts of animals in one place had led to the cross infection and reassortment of different viruses that eventually resulted in the novel coronavirus.

The first outbreak of the new coronavirus was centred on a wet market in Wuhan where all sorts of wild game are kept and sold as meat.

On the other hand, Yuen praised Germany for having a “strong sense of civic awareness,” saying its commitment to widespread testing had helped to keep the coronavirus death rate low.

He also said Chinese people could also learn from the Japanese in terms of developing a strong civic awareness.

Yuen appealed to everyone to carry out their responsibilities as a global citizen, and in particular called out people who insisted on going to beauty parlours or bars even though they were sick, as well as those who stockpiled various goods during the epidemic.

The dark side and the selfish nature of humans surface when we are in a life or death situation, he said.