- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2022

Hong Kong authorities said Tuesday they want hamster owners to hand over their pets after 11 of the rodents and two persons at a pet shop in the city tested positive for the coronavirus.

The city suspended imports of small animals and plans to cull about 2,000 of them, including hamsters and chinchillas, after the infections appeared at the Little Boss pet shop.

Dr. Leung Siu-fai, the director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, said anyone who bought one of the small animals on Dec. 22 or later should turn it over, according to the South China Morning Post.

“We have assessed the risks of these batches are relatively high and therefore made the decision based on public health needs,” Dr. Leung said. “We urge all pet owners to observe strict hygiene when handling their pets and cages. Do not kiss or abandon them on the streets.”

The decision to euthanize thousands of small mammals raised eyebrows across the globe.

“Thousands of hamsters will also be culled following link to human cases. I’m doubtful China can maintain these kinds of extreme measures in pursuit of its zero covid policy,” former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted.

Scientists said the infection in the pet shop employee is of the delta strain, and they are trying to determine if the virus spread from the animals to humans. Hong Kong has also reported cases from omicron.

“We are worried that there could be the risk of two variants spreading simultaneously. The risk of this pet shop is that it involves animals, and it has more than 10 branches across Hong Kong,” city leader Carrie Lam said at a weekly meeting of the executive council, the Post reported.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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