The World Health Organization has called for a ban on the sale of live animals in food markets to stem the spread of disease.
It comes after a joint WHO-Chinese study into the origins of Covid published last month said markets selling both live and dead animals were a likely source of the pandemic.
It also reverses the WHO’s previous opinion, published in May last year, that so-called ‘wet markets’ which sell both live and dead animals should not be forced to close, despite the infection risk.
At the time, the WHO said conditions in the markets should be improved but that shutting them down would interrupt food supplies and cost jobs.
The WHO has focused on food markets as a likely source of the pandemic following a visit by its experts to Wuhan, where they all-but ruled out the possibility the disease escaped from a lab based on data given to them by the Chinese.
Instead, they concluded that the animal were Covid originated – most likely a bat- passed the disease on to an intermediary species which then infected people.
While that process may have taken place in China, the report’s authors refused to rule out the possibility that the infection took place overseas and the infected animal was then imported into the country.
The report has proved highly controversial, not least because it has been used by Beijing to push its narrative that Covid started overseas – at least partially absolving it of responsibility for a pandemic that has crippled the globe.
Washington has been particularly vocal in its criticisms, with members of the old Trump administration giving full-throated support to the lab leak theory.
The Biden administration has been less vocal in saying what they think the source of the virus was, but have pushed for further study into its origins.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Sunday accused China of not being transparent enough with information on Covid, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic, and called for a ‘more thorough’ investigation of the virus’s origins.
‘We need to get to the bottom of this,’ he said.
‘We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again.’
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