China reopens wild animal markets

Thousands of people have started to flood back into Chinese wet markets, with bats, rabbits and dogs still on offer despite the coronavirus outbreak.

This photo taken in February shows a vendor selling bats at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island, Indonesia. Picture: Ronny Adolof Buol/AFP
As new cases of the coronavirus continue to decline in China, thousands of people have started to flood back into controversial wet markets across the country.

The city of Wuhan, which has been considered ground zero for the virus outbreak, has started to reopen after being placed on a strict two-month lockdown.

The virus was detected in December and is thought to have originated in a market in the city that sold wild animals for human consumption.

A number of animals, including bats and the highly endangered pangolin, have been identified as possible culprits for the virus.

The Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was shut down in January and in February China declared an immediate and “comprehensive” ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals.

But it appears the recent COVID-19 outbreak has done little deter other animal markets across the country from continuing to trade.

A medicine seller at a market in Dongguan, southern China, was seen advertising bats, snakes, lizards and toads to assist with common ailments, the Daily Mail reported.

The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus, a correspondent to visited the market told the publication.
The only difference is that security guards try to stop anyone taking pictures, which would never have happened before.

Another market in Guilin, in southwest China, was full of cats and dogs crammed into cages in filthy conditions and available for slaughter.

Similar markets are seen in various locations across Asia and have long been condemned, not only for their cruel treatment of animals, but for their unhygienic conditions.

There are about several stalls in every wet market in Guilin, trading in different species of dogs – live and dead – including Chinese rural dogs and pet-like dogs. Picture: David Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
This isn’t the first virus that has been linked to wet markets, with the SARS outbreak in 2003 also thought to have originated there.

A study published in 2007 from researchers at the University of Hong Kong described the culture of eating at these wet markets as a “time bomb” for a new virus.

Coronaviruses are well known to undergo genetic recombination, which may lead to new genotypes and outbreaks, the paper read.
The presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb.
At the peak of the virus outbreak in Wuhan the city was recording thousands of new cases a day. Since then more than 721,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and the death toll has soared past 33,900.

China has now claimed it has been successful in suppressing the virus, with the US and Italy taking over as the countries with the most confirmed cases.

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