Authorities on Hong Kong Island announced they would cull 2,000 small animals after a hamster in a pet store tested positive for COVID and infected one of the employees, the Associated Press reported.
According to the report, on Monday, Jan. 17, a pet store employee tested positive for COVID of the delta variant. As a result, several hamsters sold at the store from the Netherlands were tested.
All tested positive for COVID.
Therefore, officials from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation announced that the sale and importation of small mammals would be canceled.
The Centers for Communicable Diseases (CDC) clarified that the animals do not appear to transmit the disease to humans in any significant way. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong government, which the Chinese Communist Party now controls, confirmed the decision to kill the animals so as not to leave any gaps.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that the shopkeeper was in fact actually infected from the hamsters,” said Edwin Tsui, controller of the Center for Health Protection.
While it is believed that the coronavirus initially jumped from animal to human, the pandemic started when the virus began to be transmitted between people.
According to Dr. Scott Weese of the Ontario Veterinary College, minks are the only animals known to have caught the virus from people and spread it.
Extreme measures as in mainland China
Leung Siu-fai, director of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation, held a press conference on Tuesday. He warned people with pets not to take the animals out for walks and outlined some restrictions for those who purchased hamsters in a specific time range.
For example, people who purchased hamsters from the store after Jan. 7 will be tracked and subject to mandatory quarantine and must surrender their hamsters to authorities to be put down.
“All pet owners should observe good personal hygiene, and after you have been in contact with animals and their food, you should wash your hands,” Siu-fai said. “Do not kiss your pets.”
Customers who bought hamsters in Hong Kong from Dec. 22 will have to take a mandatory test and not be allowed to contact others until their tests have come back negative. If their hamsters test positive, the owners will be quarantined.
The official said that all pet stores must stop selling hamsters, and around 2,000 pets will be ‘humanely’ euthanized.
According to the AP report, Hong Kong had an outbreak of ‘Omicron’ after several Cathay Pacific flight attendants walked around the city while infected.
The airline fired two flight attendants who were later arrested and are scheduled to stand trial on Feb. 9 for violating pandemic protocol.
It’s not clear if the crew knew in advance that they were infected or if the results came afterward.
If found guilty, they could spend up to six months in prison and pay a fine of more than $600.