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China issues temporary ban on wildlife trade amid virus outbreak

China issues temporary ban on wildlife trade amid virus outbreak
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Chinese authorities have imposed a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals amid suspicions that a deadly viral outbreak originated in an animal market in the city of Wuhan.

Three government agencies said local authorities will “strengthen inspections and severely investigate and punish those who are found in violation of the provisions of this announcement,” The Associated Press reported.

The regulation, which bars the transportation or sale of wildlife online or in public markets, will continue until the “epidemic situation is lifted nationwide,” officials said.

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The State Administration of Market Regulation, Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration have advised the public against eating wild animal meat and opened a hotline for civilians to report violations, the AP said.

The new coronavirus has been linked to 56 deaths and 1,975 infections worldwide, prompting China to cut off train and air travel to Wuhan, the city believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak The lockdown has since expanded to 16 other cities in China.

Authorities also closed down the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, the origin point for 41 of the first cases.

Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s health program, said the emergence of zoonotic diseases, or those transmitted to humans after originating in other species, is a “numbers game.”

“If these markets persist, and human consumption of illegal and unregulated wildlife persists, then the public will continue to face heightened risks from emerging new viruses, potentially more lethal and the source of future pandemic spread,” he told the AP. “These are perfect laboratories for creating opportunities for these viruses to emerge.”