Chinese wet markets come back to life, sell bats and other animals as world continues to fight coronavirus

While most of these wet markets in China were shuttered as the disease widened its grip, it is now being reported that the dank, narrow markets have come back to life


                            Chinese wet markets come back to life, sell bats and other animals as world continues to fight coronavirus
(Getty Images)

China’s wet markets have been internationally blamed for the rise and the spread of the novel coronavirus aka SARS-CoV-2. The pandemic, which has recorded over 660,000 cases and more than 30,000 deaths globally, had its point of origin in these wet markets, just like the SARS outbreak of 2003.

Apart from the coronavirus spread, these wet markets in China, like the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan that was shuttered in January 2020, also face regular criticism for animal cruelty. “When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging,” Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist and conservationist at the EcoHealth Alliance, told National Geographic earlier this year. “If the animals are housed in bad conditions under a lot of stress, it might create a better opportunity for them to shed virus and to be sick.”

While most of these wet markets in China were shuttered as the disease widened its grip, it is now being reported that the dank, narrow markets have come back to life. “China celebrated its 'victory' over the coronavirus by reopening squalid meat markets of the type that started the pandemic three months ago, with no apparent attempt to raise hygiene standards to prevent a future outbreak,” reported The Daily Mail. 

The report added that thousands of customers flocked to a sprawling indoor market in Guilin, southwest China, even as several counties across the globe are right now under lockdown, in an attempt to prevent community transmission of the coronavirus. The Daily Mail correspondent described how cages of different species of animals were piled on top of each other. The same report added that in another meat market in Dongguan in southern China, a medicine seller advertised bats (widely believed to be the cause of the initial Wuhan outbreak) along with scorpions and other creatures on sale.

Official Chinese figures may imply that the country may now be free of infection, but it is worth asking if opening such wet markets so soon is a good idea, especially considering how unsanitary the conditions in these places usually are. “Everyone here believes the outbreak is over and there's nothing to worry about anymore. It's just a foreign problem now as far as they are concerned,” said a China-based correspondent who captured photos of the markets in operation for The Daily Mail on Sunday.

Another correspondent who visited Dongguan said: “The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus. The only difference is that security guards try to stop anyone taking pictures which would never have happened before.”

Genetic analysis of the virus, many have reported, has revealed that the virus originated in bats. It is yet to be determined how the disease was transferred from bats to humans. Although a theory that is gaining more and more popularity in the scientific community is that it had to do with pangolins, the scaly anteater-like mammals that are trafficked illegally in China. Pangolins are often found in these wet markets.

Fingers have also been pointed at factory farming for the spread of the disease. But that doesn’t take away the blame from the wet markets altogether yet.

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