China bans sale of wild animals as novel Wuhan coronavirus deaths increase

Medical workers work in the ICU of Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, Jan. 24, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi)

Three separate China government agencies on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals. China's government is struggling to contain the deadly outbreak of a virus that is presumed to have originated in bats, and spread to humans via a market in Wuhan City, Hubei province, where wild animals have long been sold as food.

For now, selling or transporting or cultivating any animal species defined as wild by the government is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” read a joint mandate from the government entity that oversees food markets, as well as the ministries of agriculture and forestry.

The virus is believed to have infected at least 2000 people in China and killed at least 56 people worldwide.

China has long been criticized for permitting the killing and sale and consumption of wildlife, and exploiting endangered species for traditional medicine -- the pangolin and the tiger are among the species nearly wiped out by the Chinese market's insatiable demand for dead wild things.

From Associated Press:

No wildlife can be transported or sold in any markets or online, according to text of the announcement in state media. Suspected violators will be sent to security services, and their will be properties closed and sealed. Legal breeding centers will be quarantined.

The ban will continue until “the epidemic situation is lifted nationwide” in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and block potential sources of infection and transmission.

The three agencies also opened a hotline where people can report violations, and called on the public to refrain from eating wild animal meat. The agencies are the State Administration of Market Regulation, Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

More at the NYT:China’s Omnivorous Markets Are in the Eye of a Lethal Outbreak Once Again

SCMP says the wildlife ban won't help the coronavirus situation:
China bans wildlife trade as Wuhan coronavirus spreads, death toll climbs