Medicine News

China to implement PERMANENT ban on wildlife trade in the wake of coronavirus outbreak

On the 30th of January, China imposed a temporary ban on the wildlife trade in response to the growing threat posed by the coronavirus, which at the time had already killed several hundred people, according to official estimates, and was caused by an unsanitary food market in Wuhan, which sold different species of animals, including bats, wolves, squirrels and salamanders. Now, nearly three weeks and over a thousand more officially reported deaths later, this temporary ban is now being extended permanently.

With the coronavirus outbreak showing no signs of slowing down, this decision comes after international pressure to hold China accountable for the spread of the deadly disease.

Along with this measure, Chinese authorities are planning to escalate supervision on the country’s many “wet markets,” or markets that sell fresh meat, produce and other perishable foods. These wet markets are places where diseases such as the coronavirus can spread easily because of the haphazard implementation of sanitary standards. Current research on the coronavirus believes that the deadly virus may have originated in a wet market in Wuhan. These markets are known to sell both dead and living animals, and sanitary conditions are poorly enforced. (Related: CORONAVIRUS: Top CDC official warns “we are likely to see community spread in the U.S.” as agency prepares to implement “change in our response strategy.”)

China attempting to combat the spread of coronavirus

The Politburo Standing Committee, the most powerful body of the Chinese Communist Party, formally recognized its “shortcomings” in response to the coronavirus outbreak in a statement made in early February. The committee has also announced that it plans to severely clamp down on the illegal wildlife trade to make sure the virus, and future diseases like it, doesn’t spread.

“It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade and control major public health risks from the source,” said the committee in a statement.

This ban is just one of several policies and initiatives that the ruling Chinese Communist Party are implementing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading any further. Some of these include the total quarantine of the whole province of Hubei and its nearly 60 million inhabitants, and the building of two new hospitals, the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals, which were built in 10 days and 15 days respectively. Official reports state that these hospitals will be able to accommodate over 2,600 patients once they’re both fully operational.

It remains to be seen if this new ban on the wildlife trade will be effective, especially given that the practice is already mostly illegal. Previous measures have already been enacted on the illegal wildlife trade, but the black market for exotic animals continues to thrive due to problems with enforcement, as well as inadequate prosecution measures. Up to 70 percent of zoonotic diseases come from wildlife, such as the monkeys that caused the 2013-2016 Ebola virus epidemic, and the still-unknown animal that caused the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak.

This means that it is absolutely necessary for China to effectively crack down on the trade to prevent future outbreaks. In addition, these comprehensive measures must be strictly enforced. If not, then it’s likely that the illegal trade will continue, even in a diminished form, and diseases like the coronavirus will continue to spread.

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