The announcement by the Hong Kong authorities on Tuesday was met with outrage by pet house owners and animals rights advocates, with a number of on-line petitions urging authorities to rethink.
It comes after an rising cluster linked to the Little Boss pet retailer, the place a 23-year-old worker was confirmed constructive for the Delta variant on Monday. A buyer who visited the shop and interacted with the worker later examined constructive as effectively.
After investigating the pet retailer, officers stated on Tuesday that 11 hamsters had examined preliminary constructive for Covid, elevating considerations round the potential for animal-to-human transmission.
Environmental samples taken on the store’s warehouse, the place different species of small animals are held, additionally confirmed traces of coronavirus, officers stated. The hamsters on the pet retailer had been imported from the Netherlands in two batches — on December 22 and January 7.
On Tuesday, authorities seized all of the small animals within the store, together with hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, to be examined and euthanized — whatever the take a look at consequence — citing a well being hazard to the general public.
All pet shops promoting hamsters within the metropolis have been ordered handy the animals over to be put down, with comparable orders for anyone who purchased a hamster within the lead-up to Christmas, starting December 22.
Pictures on Tuesday evening present Covid management employees in hazmat fits at quite a few pet shops, disinfecting the premises and bringing out cumbersome pink plastic luggage.
All animals taken from the shop can be handled “humanely,” authorities stated.
Authorities additionally suspended the import of all small animals into town, and advised all pet shops promoting hamsters to droop operations instantly till all their small animals have examined adverse. Officers urged residents on Tuesday to “undertake good hygiene practices” with their pets, together with avoiding kissing them.
Greater than 20,000 individuals have signed the biggest on-line petition urging the federal government to not cull the animals. Some social media customers stated many hamsters might have been purchased across the holidays as items for younger kids.
“Hamsters are our household, all people please suppose rationally, do not give them up due to one incident,” stated the Hamster Concern Society, a volunteer group in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) stated in a press release it was “shocked and anxious” by the federal government’s resolution, which “didn’t take animal welfare and human-animal bond into consideration.”
In a Fb submit on Wednesday, the hamster concern group stated it had been flooded with questions and pleas from anxious pet house owners. “My family’s hamster wasn’t purchased from a pet retailer, however my household could be very frightened and wish me to ship it away,” stated one proprietor, in response to the group. “However I do not wish to, is there any strategy to take a look at my hamster?
In response to the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, there have been documented Covid-19 instances in animals who doubtless caught the virus from people — nonetheless, there may be far much less proof to counsel the potential for animal-to-human transmission.
However authorities defended the cull, arguing it was within the curiosity of public well being and security.
Hong Kong has caught to a strict zero-Covid method, aiming to stamp out all instances internally whereas sustaining strict border controls, at the same time as more and more transmissible variants — first Delta and now Omicron — make that increasingly tough.
Hong Kong is likely one of the few locations nonetheless adhering to that technique, within the hopes of reopening its border with mainland China, which continues to lock down hundreds of thousands of residents in an try to eradicate Covid.
A spokesperson for town’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Division (AFCD) stated Tuesday that each one hamsters can be killed no matter their take a look at consequence as a result of the virus’ incubation interval means “adverse take a look at outcomes don’t essentially imply that the hamsters haven’t been contaminated.”
He added that the federal government would not have the amenities or means to check greater than a thousand hamsters on daily basis, not to mention isolating and quarantining all of the small animals within the metropolis — so killing them was “a secure and possible strategy to management the epidemic.”
Testing and isolating pets, and killing solely those decided to be a risk, “couldn’t management the epidemic utterly and will trigger loopholes,” he added.
Mainland China has additionally taken comparable measures towards pets in the course of the pandemic.
Each instances went viral on Chinese language social media, sparking widespread dismay and anger amongst pet house owners and sympathizers — although some posters argued human lives had been extra essential to guard than these of animals.
The Hong Kong AFCD spokesperson additionally pointed to European nations just like the Netherlands and Denmark that had performed comparable mass cullings over Covid transmission considerations.
In November 2020, Denmark stated it discovered a mutated pressure of the coronavirus amongst its mink inhabitants that had unfold to people. In response, the federal government introduced the culling of 17 million mink to cease its unfold.
Denmark’s parliament commissioned an inquiry into whether or not ministers had recognized that the authorized framework was absent, with the investigation set to complete in April.
CNN’s Wayne Chang, Lizzy Yee and Teele Rebane contributed to this report. Further reporting by Reuters.