Investigation Into 'Wuhan Wet Market' Finds China Lied About Its Role

Written By BlabberBuzz | Thursday, 10 June 2021 11:15

No bats or pangolins were sold at Wuhan wet markets shortly before the coronavirus pandemic originated, according to an Oxford-led study.

The research reports a menagerie of nearly 50,000 animals from 38 species, including badgers and boars, peacocks, and pit vipers, sold at animal markets in the Chinese city from 2017 to November 2019.

But the team discovered "no evidence that a single bat or pangolin was kept at the market, leading them to conclude that these species - frequently blamed for Covid-19 - "were not the likely spillover host at the source of the coronavirus".

Instead, they claimed that the scores of wild animals kept in filthy cages and dismissed by the merchants provided an excess of ways for Covid-19 to carry on to humans.

Chris Newman, from the University of Oxford, told Mailonline: "Some of these species are known to host a variety of diseases.

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"A few have subsequently been identified as competent hosts of Covid-19, but the main suspected spill-over hosts, namely bats and pangolins, were not for sale in these markets.

"Our data cannot determine how humans became infected with Covid-19, only that direct contact with pangolins or bats in these markets seems highly implausible."

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The claim arises amid expanding criticism over whether the virus emerged from a Wuhan lab and did not pass naturally from animals to humans at all.

The authors, whose work was written in Scientific Reports on Wednesday, said the thousands of animals that were traded in Wuhan were "capable of hosting a wide range of infectious zoonotic diseases or disease-baring parasites."

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"The creatures were sold for huge sums. Marmot meat, for example, was five times the cost of pork.

"This is not subsistence bushmeat, but a costly delicacy," Prof Macdonald added.

China claims it has since cracked down on these hotbeds for disease, preventing the sale of live animals, but more than a year after the first outbreak, people still pack into these markets to buy food, including live fish, frogs and turtles.

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The study authors wrote that there is a persistent desire among Chinese people to trade in so-called "charismatic species" which are considered "prestige items."

"In major part this is because protective legislation has not been enforced consistently, fostering a nonchalant disregard for wildlife exploitation," the study says.

Prof Macdonald told The Times: "With these huge concentrations of diverse species under one roof... it would seem but a matter of time before some other unwelcome disease might skip into the human population."

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