Hong Kong authorities say they will give away about 2,000 small animals – including all guinea pigs in pet stores – due to concerns about Covid-19 transmission.
On Tuesday, officials said they found 11 hamsters from the city’s Little Boss pet store that had tested positive preliminary.
According to Dr. Leung Siu-fai, Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, the animals were imported from the Netherlands in two batches, one on 7 January and the other on 22 December.
The samples were taken after a 23-year-old worker at the store, located in Hong Kong’s busy Causeway Bay district, was confirmed on Monday to be infected with the Delta variant.
Overall, health authorities consider the risk of animal-to-human transmission possible, but low.
Environmental samples taken at the store’s warehouse, where the small animals are kept, also confirmed traces of the coronavirus, officials said.
Authorities have asked the store to turn over all of its small animals, including hamsters, rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs, and to have their animals delivered to those who purchased guinea pigs after December 22. to be examined and fed.
In addition, pet stores that sell hamsters have been asked to return the animals. The importation of all small animals into the city has been suspended and all pet stores selling hamsters have been ordered to cease operations immediately. These pet stores can reopen once all of their small animals have been tested and the results are negative, authorities added.
Officials said on Tuesday they would also review quarantine measures for imported small animals, including pre- and on-arrival feasibility checks.
“We cannot rule out the possibility that when these animals were imported, they were carrying the coronavirus. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that people who come into contact with these animals are at higher risk [of infection],” said Dr. Edwin Tsui, head of the Department of Health’s Center for Health Protection, at a press conference on Tuesday.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are documented cases of Covid-19 in animals with the potential for human transmission of the virus, but there is little evidence of animal transmission. to person.
In November 2020, Denmark said it had found a mutant strain of coronavirus in its mink population that had spread to humans. In response, the government announced the culling of 17 million mink to prevent its spread.
Hong Kong’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it was “shocked and concerned” by the decision to feed more than 2,000 small animals, adding that it “did not take into account human rights”. welfare of animals and the relationship between man and animals.”