The Hill (USA)

WHO says animal markets like in Wuhan should not be shut down
© getty: Chinese seafood vendors wait for customers at a wet market in Beijing

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that “wet” animal markets should not be shut down globally after one such site in Wuhan, China, is suspected of being the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said in a press briefing Friday that live animal markets play a key role in providing food and jobs to millions of people and that authorities should focus on improving safety standards rather than shutting them down.

“Food safety in these environments is rather difficult and therefore it’s not surprising that sometimes we also have these events happening within markets,” Embarek said.

The WHO expert added that improving hygiene and food safety standards at wet markets could reduce the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans and noted that investigators are still trying to clarify the precise animal from which the coronavirus jumped to first infect humans.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China last month to shutter its wet markets over the COVID-19 outbreak, and a bipartisan group of senators in early April made the same request.

“On this Earth Day, we also underscore the dangerous consequences of wildlife trafficking. Wildlife ‘wet markets,’ in which live species are sold for human consumption, are hotspots for wildlife trafficking, create risks for the generation and spread of diseases, and may have played a critical role in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pompeo said in an Earth Day statement.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a rare public statement last month that it is investigating the origins of the coronavirus, though it said it found no evidence to suggest the virus was man-made.