Bipartisan senators call on China to close all wet markets

Bipartisan senators call on China to close all wet markets
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators called on Chinese officials to close all wet markets in the country over their suspected links to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The letter, spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhat you need to know about FBI official Dana Boente's retirement Rosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US MORE (R-S.C.) and Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsVoting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Warren's VP bid faces obstacle: Her state's Republican governor MORE (D-Del.), told the Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai that they “urgently request that China immediately close all operating wet markets that have a potential to expose humans to health risks through the introduction of zoonotic disease into the human population.”

Wet markets, where animals are sold in the open, are common in China. Chinese officials shuttered wet markets in Wuhan and the surrounding province in January when the virus began to spread. 

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The 2003 SARS outbreak is also believed to be linked to a wet market.

“It is well documented that wet markets in China have been the source of a number of worldwide health problems, and their operation should cease immediately so as to protect the Chinese people and the international community from additional health risks,” the lawmakers continued.

As the senators noted, wet markets are a particularly important part of the Chinese economy, often offering goods that are unavailable in other parts of the world. 

“We understand and respect that wet markets are an important component to Chinese society and way of life, but we believe the current moment, which has disrupted everyday life around the world, calls for extreme precautions,” the letter said.

The United Nations' acting head of biodiversity and the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert are among numerous officials who have since called for the markets to shut down. 

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China in late February announced a ban on wildlife trade and consumption and wildlife markets. But according to Graham and Coons, “[d]espite these statements, wet markets in Wuhan and throughout China are back in operation after the recent shut downs.”

On Wednesday, a group of more than 60 bipartisan lawmakers called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue an immediate global ban on wet markets. 

In that letter, which Graham and Coons also signed, lawmakers said wet markets pose a danger to global health because they lack "standardized sanitary or health inspection processes."