The Chinese government has acknowledged that COVID-19 pandemic exposed ‘the problems’ of the country’s wet markets.
Beijing said today that the new coronavirus outbreak revealed the issues in the design, construction and management of tens of thousands of ‘agricultural products markets’, which include wholesale markets, wet markets and bazaars.
The health crisis, which has killed more than 520,000 people worldwide, was first detected in a seafood wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. A new wave that hit Beijing in June was also linked to a large wholesale market.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce admitted that the country’s agricultural markets lacked proper planning or layout and needed better infrastructure Pictured, Chinese customers browse meat at a pork stall at a wet market in Nanning, Guangxi, on September 16, 2019
Hu Jianping, from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, revealed on Friday that China would set up laws to improve the management of tens of thousands of ‘agricultural products markets’
Hu Jianping, a deputy director at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, admitted that the country’s agricultural markets lacked proper planning or layout, had insufficient construction funds and needed better infrastructure.
There are currently 44,000 such markets across the nation, including more than 4,100 wholesale markets, according to the official.
Ms Hu made the comments at a press conference on Friday while responding to a question about concerns over public health safety following the latest wave in Beijing.
The capital city has reported 331 confirmed cases in the current outbreak since mid-June. Experts believe the spike was associated with the raw meat sold at the Xinfadi, the city’s largest wholesale market covering the size of nearly 160 football fields.
The vast majority of cases in Beijing’s new virus outbreak have been linked to the sprawling Xinfadi market (pictured) that supplies about 80 per cent of Beijing’s fresh produce and meat
There are currently 44,000 such markets across the nation, including more than 4,100 wholesale markets. Pictured, people buy goods at a wet market in Guangzhou on April 20
Ms Hu, the second-in-command at the Department of Market System Development of the Ministry of Commerce, said the authority would increase its support to agricultural markets and improve the level of construction in its ‘software and hardware’.
She also revealed that China was planning to establish laws to clarify the ‘public welfare status’ and improve the management of those markets.
The wet markets of China have sparked a global outcry since the deadly disease broke out at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan last December.
Prominent critics include America’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, who demanded all wet markets in China be ‘shut down right away’. Former Beatles frontman Sir Paul McCartney labelled such trading hubs ‘medieval’.
The pandemic first emerged in Wuhan in December. Experts believe the virus was passed onto humans by wild animals sold as food at a wet market in Wuhan, called Huanan. Workers wearing protective suits are pictured walking next to the Huanan market on March 30
A common sight in China and other Asian countries, wet markets are indoor or outdoor marketplaces that sell a wide variety of fresh produce, from fruits and vegetables to meat and spices.
Some also sell live poultry, such as chickens and ducks, as well as live seafood.
Wet markets are named so because vendors often hose water on the produce to keep it fresh and on the floor to make the space clean.
The majority of the wet markets in China don’t sell wild animals, dead or alive, and should not be confused with wildlife markets or livestock markets, which exist in some parts of China.
The Huanan market in Wuhan was shut on January 1 and the Xinfadi market in Beijing closed its doors on June 13 after a cluster of coronavirus cases emerged at there. Pictured, a fruit vendor waits for customers between closed stalls at a food market in Beijing on June 22
While modern supermarkets have popped up in virtually every corner of Chinese cities, wet markets owe their continuous popularity to the fact that Chinese people prefer freshly butchered meat to frozen meat, believing that it could add more flavour to the dish.
The criticism against wet markets began when experts discovered that the novel coronavirus might have jumped onto humans from wild animals sold as food at the now-shut Huanan market in Wuhan.
Apart from seafood, its offerings included live wild animals, such as foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, according to a previous report.
The Xinfadi market in Beijing has stayed shut since June 13 after the capital city had reported its first native infection in nearly two months.
The SARS virus killed 775 people globally and was found in civets, a small cat-like mammal, sold in wildlife markets in southern China’s Guangdong province. In the file photo above, a man looks at caged civet cats in a wildlife market in Guangzhou on January 4, 2004
Officials have indicated that the capital’s outbreak was caused by a strain of virus lurking on seafood from Europe.
China’s last major health crisis, the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003, was also traced back to the consumption of wild animals.
The SARS virus killed 775 people globally and was later found in civets, a small cat-like mammal, sold in wildlife markets in southern China’s Guangdong province.
In February, Beijing issued a temporary law to ban the trading and eating of wild animals in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Politicians and celebrities call for permanent ban on Chinese wet markets
A panel of politicians and celebrities in the west have voiced their strong disapproval against the wet markets in China amid fears that they help spread viruses, such as the novel coronavirus.
Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on April 3 that all the wet markets in China should be shut down immediately.
‘It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we just don’t shut it down,’ Dr Fauci told Fox News during an interview.
America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci (pictured on April 22) has demanded Chinese wet markets be shut down during an interview with Fox this month
Sir Paul McCartney, a long-time vegetarian campaigner, branded wet markets ‘medieval’ and said that it made sense to ban them.
He told an American radio host in April: ‘When you’ve got the obscenity of some of the stuff that’s going on there and what comes out of it, they might as well be letting off atomic bombs. It’s affecting the whole world.’
Sir Paul also said: ‘Let’s face it, it is a little bit medieval eating bats.’
‘They might as well be letting off atomic bombs because it’s affecting the whole world,’ he told American radio personality Howard Stern, on Sirius XM last week
The UK Prime Minister’s pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds, revealed that she had signed a petition calling for an end to wet markets across the world.
The 32-year-old, who was forced to self-isolate while pregnant after contracting coronavirus, took to social media to share the ‘End the Trade’ petition.
Australia has also called for international experts to scrutinise wild animal markets thought to be the source of the coronavirus in China.
The Prime Minister’s pregnant fiancee, who was forced to self-isolate after contracting coronavirus, took to social media to share the ‘End the Trade’ petition
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said on April 22 that wet markets pose a risk to human and animal health.
‘We must learn from COVID-19 on how we better manage and mitigate both human and animal biosecurity risks and to ignore wildlife wet markets in that assessment would be wrong,’ the Australian politician said.
‘There are risks with wildlife wet markets and they could be as big a risk to our agricultural industries as they can be to public health so we have to understand them better.’
The United Nations’ biodiversity chief, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, said that banning ‘wet markets’ that sell live and dead animals for human consumption could help countries prevent future pandemics.
‘The message we are getting is if we don’t take care of nature, it will take care of us,’ She told the Guardian.