COVID-19 was first spotted at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city of Wuhan towards the end of last year, and is widely thought to be a zoonotic illness which jumped species at some point prior to that – although the details remain unclear. Beijing has never admitted the disease originated in China, with some officials claiming it was imported from Italy or even the United States.
However, Beijing’s market watching today announced restrictions to the killing and trading of live farm animals such as chickens and ducks in the wet markets.
Chen Xu, a market-inspecting specialist, said the move was the first stage in a plan to halt the live-poultry trade altogether.
He urged all cities in the country to initiate similar procedures to identify potential safety risks.
China is to impose new restrictions on wet markets
Horrific scenes at a wet market in China in 2002
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has admitted the outbreak exposed flaws in the design, construction and management of tens of thousands of ‘agricultural products markets’.
Hu Jianping, a deputy director at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said such facilities lacked proper planning or layout, with insufficient construction funds and in need of infrastructure.
In total there are an estimated 44,000 such markets across the nation, including more than 4,000 wholesale markets, she said.
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Dr Anthony Fauci voiced his opposition to the markets
Ms Hu made her remarks at a press conference in which she was also questioned about worries over public health safety following the latest COVID-19 spike in Beijing, where 331 confirmed cases have been spotted since mid-June.
Experts blame raw meat sold at the Xinfadi, which is the city’s largest wholesale market, covering an size of more than 150 football pitches, and which has been closed since June 13.
Ms Hu, who is second-in-command at the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Market System Development, pledged to increase the support provided to agricultural markets.
China would also introduce laws to clarify the “public welfare status”, she added.
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Sir Paul McCartney has called China’s wet markets “medieval”
Wet markets are thought to be where COVID-19 jumped species
I think we should shut down those things right away
Critics of the notorious markets include Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert.
He told Fox News: “I think we should shut down those things right away.
“It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.
“I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”
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Sir Paul McCartney, a long-standing vegetarian, has described them as “medieval”.
The Beatle said: “They will not close down these wet markets, that got us into this trouble in the first place. It’s mind-boggling, right?
“It wouldn’t be so bad if this is the only thing it seems like you can blame on those wet markets.
“It seems like Sars, avian flu, all sorts of other stuff that has afflicted us … and what’s it for? For these quite medieval practices.
“They need to clean up their act.”
Wet markets remain popular in China where there is a belief that freshly butchered meat has more flavour than frozen meat.
As well as seafood, Huanan stocked live wild animals, such as foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, according to some reports.
Beijing issued a temporary law in February banning ban the trading and eating of wild animals in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.