Hong Kong has ordered the culling of thousands of hamsters and other small mammals, after a COVID-19 outbreak was linked to a pet shop, reports Reuters.
Authorities swooped in on the Little Boss store in Causeway Bay, seizing the animals, while families who had bought a hamster since December 22 have been ordered to hand over their pet for euthanasia.
The decision was announced on Tuesday, after an outbreak of the Delta variant linked to a worker in the shop prompted officials to test hundreds of animals.
Eleven hamsters were found to be positive, leading officials to believe it may be a case of animal-to-human COVID transmission.
Interestingly, only hamsters seemed to be affected, with negative results returned for other animals, including rabbits and chinchillas.
However, as a preventative measure, some 2,000 small mammals spread across 34 different pet shops and animal storage centers in the city are to be killed.
A ban on the import and sale of hamsters and other small mammals will also be enacted, agriculture officials announced.
Pet owners in the city have also been warned not to ‘kiss’ their animals.
The virus that causes COVID-19 – SARS-CoV-2 – can be caught by animals including dogs, cats, ferrets and rodents. It is unclear, however, how easily animals pass the infection to humans.
Like the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong has maintained a ‘zero-COVID’ strategy focused on eliminating the disease.
[Cover image via Wiki]