A health crisis such as the Covid-19 epidemic is not a matter to be taken lightly. That is especially so with worrying variations of the coronavirus circulating. The failure of a man visiting from Dubai and his local friend infected with a new mutation to be as forthcoming as possible about their activities and who they had met has inconvenienced hundreds of thousands and potentially put lives at risk. There is understandable anger at such behaviour, with some calling for police to step in and impose penalties if deliberate wrongdoing is found. The nature of the strain, involving parts of the Brazilian and South African variants, is being investigated, although it is believed to be much easier to spread than the original coronavirus. More than two weeks have passed since it was first detected in the test sample the 29-year-old man gave as he was preparing to leave the city. Previous tests while he was in quarantine at a hotel for 21 days had been negative. His 31-year-old friend, who he had been staying with in Jordan, subsequently also tested positive. Had they been wholly cooperative with contact tracing efforts by health officials, the people they had met and spent time with could have been promptly screened and quarantined. Instead, they were selective with information; it was only when other cases of the mutated virus began appearing that authorities knew something was amiss. New coronavirus variants emerging in India could prolong crisis All the new infections involved Philippine domestic helpers from different parts of Hong Kong, prompting experts to believe their social-gathering habits had led to silent transmission of the strain. Action was swift and decisive, with thousands of people living in the same buildings as the maids being quarantined for three weeks and those suspected of having shared the same public spaces having to undergo tests. The unprecedented decision was taken to have all the city’s estimated 370,000 foreign helpers checked. More Covid-19 cases involving variants have subsequently been revealed. But so wide a search may not have been necessary had it been known that there were direct links between the helpers initially infected and the Jordan couple. Only on Wednesday were the links apparent. There had been social gatherings in Chai Wan involving the woman’s family, and three of the attendees were at a flat in Sham Shui Po at which maids from Quarry Bay and Pok Fu Lam, who subsequently also tested positive, had been present. This is the connection to a helper in Tung Chung who also came down with the coronavirus along with the baby she cared for. How serious the delays have been will be apparent if more cases involving the mutated virus are found. Cooperation and honesty are essential to stopping the coronavirus and the inconvenience and suffering it brings. Authorities should consider an appropriate penalty as a deterrence.