China’s wet markets have been internationally blamed for the rise and the spread of the novel coronavirus aka SARS-CoV-2. The pandemic, which has recorded over 660,000 cases and more than 30,000 deaths globally, had its point of origin in these wet markets in Wuhan, generally recognised as the epicentre of the virus.
Apart from the coronavirus spread, these wet markets in China, like the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan that was closed shut in January 2020, also face regular criticism for animal cruelty. “When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging,” Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist and conservationist at the EcoHealth Alliance said.
“If the animals are housed in bad conditions under a lot of stress, it might create a better opportunity for them to shed virus and to be sick.”
Apparently, China celebrated its ‘victory’ over the coronavirus by reopening squalid meat markets of the type that started the pandemic three months ago, with no apparent attempt to raise hygiene standards to prevent a future outbreak.
Official Chinese figures may imply that the country may now be free of infection, but it is worth asking if opening such wet markets so soon is a good idea, especially considering how unsanitary the conditions in these places usually are.
Genetic analysis of the virus, many have reported, has revealed that the virus originated in bats. It is yet to be determined how the disease was transferred from bats to humans. Although a theory that is gaining more and more popularity in the scientific community is that it had to do with pangolins, the scaly anteater-like mammals that are trafficked illegally in China. Pangolins are often found in these wet markets.
Fingers have also been pointed at factory farming for the spread of the disease. But that doesn’t take away the blame from the wet markets altogether yet.