Following the COVID-19 outbreak, Hong Kong will eliminate 2,000 hamsters.
Reuters, HONG KONG, Jan 18 - To the outrage of animal lovers, Hong Kong issued a warning not to kiss pets and ordered a mass cull of hamsters on Tuesday after 11 of the rodents tested positive for COVID-19.
Officials reported that a recent coronavirus outbreak in people linked to a pet shop worker spurred tests on hundreds of animals in the Chinese-controlled area, with 11 hamsters confirmed afflicted.
Hong Kong ordered 2,000 hamsters to be "humanely" put down, and imports and sales were halted, echoing the mainland's zero-tolerance approach even as much of the world adjusts to living with COVID.
Several pet stores across the city were closed and cleaned, while men in protective gear combed the store at the center of the cluster in the crowded Causeway Bay sector.
A reassessment was encouraged by the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs veterinary clinics.
The SPCA is astonished and worried by the government's recent announcement on the management of over 2,000 tiny animals, which did not consider animal welfare or the human-animal link, it stated.
Despite the lack of evidence that domestic animals can infect humans, Health Secretary Sophia Chan told a press conference that authorities were proceeding cautiously.
Pet owners should exercise proper hygiene, such as washing their hands after handling their animals, handling their food or other products, and not kissing the animals, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department director Leung Siu-fai Leung also told reporters.
Report ad Rabbits and chinchillas were also tested, but only the hamsters were found to be positive. According to local station RTHK, they were all brought from the Netherlands.
There have been coronavirus cases in dogs and cats all around the world, while scientists believe there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in human infection.
The Hong Kong hamsters had to be put down, according to Leung, because quarantining and observing each one was impossible. After Dec. 22, 2021, buyers of hamsters should pass them over to authorities for culling rather than leaving them on the streets, he added.
Officials added that a hotline for inquiries was being established up, and that 150 of the pet shop's clients were being quarantined.
Three pet cats in the Chinese city of Harbin were put down in September after testing positive for coronavirus, sparking outrage on social media. find out more
Denmark, on the other hand, slaughtered millions of mink in 2020 to reduce COVID-19 mutations. In addition, several Russian areas have vaccinated animals against COVID-19 after Moscow announced the registration of the world's first animal vaccine after tests on dogs, cats, foxes, and mink. find out more
Human-to-animal-to-human transmission chains are unusual, but they do happen, according to Nikolaus Osterrieder, dean of the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences at the City University of Hong Kong.
Obviously, it's a harsh approach, but it's a result of zero Covid (rules),he added of Hong Kong's actions. Hamsters are highly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 and can produce significant volumes of virus, says the researcher.
World Animal Protection, a global animal welfare organization, called the measures "premature. Animal culling should always be a last resort, and we advise governments to consider other measures first, such as quarantine, said Jan Schmidt-Burbach, research director.
Hong Kong has witnessed scores of new coronavirus infections in people this year, following three months of no local transmission, prompting additional restrictions on flights and social activities.
Thousands of individuals have been detained at a makeshift government facility. The majority of the new cases are of the extremely contagious novel Omicron strain, while a Delta cluster linked to a pet shop employee has been identified.