The Chinese city of Wuhan, home to the origins of the novel coronavirus sweeping the globe in worldwide pandemic, officially banned the sale and consumption of wild animals this week, CBS News reported on Wednesday.
Chinese farmers in the Hubei Province where the city of 11 million people is located are now being offered cash payouts from the government to cease breeding exotic animals which are suspected to have given rise to the new virus. The city has also banned hunting for such creatures except in permitted cases of “scientific research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other special circumstances,” CBS reported, while placing restrictions on breeding.
While China had already implemented bans on the nation’s exotic wet markets where animals are exchanged for human consumption, loopholes in the government’s orders still allowed for most operations to continue.
CBS News wrote Wednesday that Wuhan policymakers will be working with nationwide authorities to effectively buy out traders in an effort to put an end to the exotic animal marketplace.
The exact origins of the novel coronavirus today remain unknown even though top U.S. intelligence officials believe the virus may have emerged from a lab in Wuhan rather than in one of the city’s wet markets. Other deadly viral outbreaks emerging from China however, have been confirmed to come from these markets that become breeding grounds for new viruses to infect the human population such as COVID-19, which is presumed to possibly have come from an undercooked bat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, six out of ten infectious diseases in humans come from animals. In 2017, researchers published a report in Nature that concluded the 2003 SARS outbreak came from horseshoe bats from a cave in the Chinese province of Yunnan.
As the wet market theory picked up steam to explain the origin of today’s pandemic coronavirus, China has been under international pressure from other governments and wildlife conservation groups to shut down the vastly unregulated exchange of wild animals.
Jan Vertefeuille of the World Wildlife Fund, one of many organizations to support the ban on wet market enterprises explained to NPR how these operations can spur new diseases.
“You might have bats sitting on top of pigs, sitting on top of pangolins, sitting on top of civet cats, and all their bodily fluids are kind of flowing into each other,” Vertefeuille said. “It’s the perfect recipe for an epidemic, something like COVID-19 to emerge from a market like that.”
In April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China and all other southeast Asian countries to close up these markets.
“Given the strong link between illegal wildlife sold in wet markets and zoonotic diseases, the United States has called on the People’s Republic of China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets and all markets that sell illegal wildlife,” Pompeo said in a statement to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). “I call on all ASEAN governments to do the same.”
The novel Wuhan coronavirus has now infected nearly five million people worldwide and has killed more than 320,000 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.