The Australian government calls on the G20 countries to act on wet wildlife markets, calling them “biosecurity and human health risk”.
Australia is not yet calling for a ban – but says its own advisers believe they may need to be “phased out”.
“Wet markets” are markets that sell fresh food such as meat and fish.
But some also sell wildlife – and it is believed that the coronavirus may have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan that sold “exotic” live animals.
Huanan’s market in Wuhan is said to have offered a range of animals, including foxes, wolf cubs, civets, turtles and snakes.
What did Australia say?
The Australian government has called for a survey of wet markets for wildlife after a meeting of G20 agriculture ministers.
Speaking to the ABC on Thursday, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he does not target all food markets.
“A wet market, like the Sydney fish market, is perfectly safe,” he said.
“But when you add wildlife, living wildlife, exotic wildlife – it opens up the human risk and the biosecurity risk as we’ve seen it.
“And in fact, China itself has reported this to the World Animal Health Organization, that it was the cause of Covid-19. “
Littleproud said he wanted to “get the science” first, but said, “Even our chief veterinarian tells us he believes they [wildlife wet markets] may need to be deleted. ”
What is the risk of wet wildlife markets?
The exact origin of the new coronavirus is not known, but evidence suggests that it came from an animal.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health, Covid-19 is a “close relative” of other viruses found in horseshoe bats.
Thus, the virus could have passed from the bat to humans, or via an “intermediate host” – one theory is the bat, pangolin, to man.
It is believed that the Sars coronavirus appeared in bats before moving to civets and then humans. The Mers coronavirus has passed from camels to humans, having probably emerged in bats.
What has China done so far?
In January, China temporarily banned the trade in wild animals, as in the Sars epidemic.
A month later, the government “completely prohibited the illegal trade in wildlife” and “eliminated the consumption of wild animals to protect the life and health of people.”
But since then, a number of reports indicate that wildlife is still sold in markets in China and elsewhere.
Most recently, the head of the World Health Organization said that all governments must “strictly enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food.”
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “When these markets are allowed to reopen, they should only be reopened if they meet strict standards of food safety and hygiene” .