The World Health Organisation (WHO) tried to clarify its position on ‘wet markets’ after openly backing its reopening in China following the coronavirus outbreak. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said these markets should be allowed to reopen only on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards.
WHO chief emphasised that the wet markets are an important source of affordable food and livelihood for millions of people all over the world but remain poorly regulated and poorly maintained in many places. He said that governments must rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food.
“WHO has worked closely with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to develop guidance on the safe operation of markets,” said Dr Ghebreyesus at the virtual press conference in Geneva.
The UN health agency drew flak from around the world after it backed the reopening of the wet markets in China, which is supposed to be the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. WHO chief said that an estimated 70 per cent of all new viruses come from animals so the agencies are also working together closely to understand and prevent pathogens crossing from animals to humans.
The WHO has been facing criticism for having a bias for China, be it wet markets or the transparency over the handling of coronavirus outbreak. On April 17, Wuhan abruptly raised its coronavirus death count taking the toll death toll of the city to 3,869 and across China to 4,632, raising further doubts over its transparency.
However, the UN health agency said that many countries will revise their toll once they get the coronavirus crisis under control. WHO’s COVID-19 Technical Lead Maria van Kerkhove told the virtual news conference that the overwhelming numbers of coronavirus patients in Wuhan crippled the authorities in recording the death toll and infections properly.