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UN Diversity Chief Says Wet Markets Are ‘risk Factor’ For Disease Spread

UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema has called for scaling up stricter control and said wet markets are an important ‘risk factor' for disease spread.


In view of coronavirus pandemic that has engulfed the world, the UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema has reportedly called for scaling up stricter control on the sale and consumption of wild species as she believes that the wet markets in China’s Wuhan city are an important ‘risk factor’ for disease spread. Wild animals sold in the ‘wet markets’ such as Huanan Seafood Market are believed to be the source of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The deadly coronavirus outbreak has already claimed more than 82,000 lives around the world and has affected almost 209 countries and territories. 

Mrema said, “Measures taken by countries to reduce the number of live animals in food markets have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of future disease outbreaks and stricter controls on the sale and consumption of wild species must be scaled up globally”. 

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She, however, also noted that such markets sustain the livelihoods of millions of people and several also rely on wild meat as a critical source of food security and nutrition. She also pointed out that a blanket ban may inadvertently increase the risk of illegal trade of species used as food and medicine, particularly among some communities that may attach strong cultural and societal referents to some wild species used and traded as foods, medicines, or for other purposes.

However, she stressed that there is a rapidly emerging body of scientific evidence to suggest that coronavirus is likely to have a zoonotic origin. She added that a concerted action supported by a long-term vision, one that enables the world to fundamentally transform the collective understanding and relationship with the natural world, to protect possible future pandemic outbreaks. 

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Coalition to pressure China into closing wet markets 

Meanwhile, a coalition is being formed in the United States to exert pressure on China to close its infamous wet markets. As per international media reports, the members who are likely to be a part of it include US President Donald Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham and several animal rights forums including the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Animal Wellness Action. The main aim of the coalition is to put pressure on Beijing directly to close the wet markets like the ones in Wuhan. According to the leaders, the risks posed by the wet markets are too high. Meanwhile, several online petitions have already taken off urging China to shut these markets.

Meanwhile, China's 'wet markets' have been reopened and the sale of bats, pangolins and dogs for human consumption has resumed in the country. The coronavirus outbreak had earlier been pinned down by the WHO to one such 'wet-market' in Wuhan, with a 'patient zero' recently being identified.

(Image source: Unsplash) 

(With PTI inputs)

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