Story at a glance

  • Officials from the UN, WHO and WWF call for more nature protections to protect the world from a second zoonotic virus.
  • Some of the reforms include better meat and livestock regulation for wet markets.

Pandemics like the coronavirus are a result of humanity’s destruction of the environment –– and the world has continuously ignored the alarm, turning its back on our delicate relationship with nature. 

That’s according to leaders at the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Wildlife Fund International (WWF International), all of whom wrote about the dire circumstances in The Guardian Wednesday.

Officials from the UN, WHO and WWF International say the coronavirus outbreak is due to human activity, namely increasing deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade. Both destructive acts expose humans to emerging infectious diseases, they assert. 


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“The unsafe handling, consumption and trade in high-risk wildlife species is just one example of the ways in which our broken relationship with nature is affecting human health,” the authors write. 

The piece was written by Marco Lambertini, the director general of WWF International; Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; and Maria Neira, director of the World Health Organization department of environment, climate change and health. The Guardian also reported on the officials’ warnings. 

The world leaders further write that previous outbreaks, including Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS),severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Nipah virus affecting pig farmers in 1998, were early indications of humans’ destructive and reckless treatment of the natural world.

Citing the “unsafe handling, consumption and trade in high-risk wildlife species,” as a major threat to human health and the environment, the authors call for more regulation surrounding the procurement of animals and human contact. 

COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Health officials are still tracing its exact source, but some theorize that it may be linked to a seafood market in China, according to Johns Hopkins. Some scientists believe the virus originated in bats or pangolins. 

“Unless well-managed and regulated, these markets can pose a significant risk to humans, wildlife and livestock, by bringing high-risk species – many of which are endangered – into close contact with other animals, wild and domesticated, and people, thereby creating the conditions for disease spillover,” the authors said.

Simultaneously, the WWF published its own report Wednesday detailing imminent threats of more zoonotic disease that will emerge if humans continue mass deforestation, wild meat trade and lax food safety standards found globally.

Part of the solution will come from government solutions that will help protect endangered species and protect natural resources, the authors say. Officials believe these efforts will improve human health.

The UN is also set to host a summit to protect and increase biodiversity in September 2020.


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Published on Jun 17, 2020