Wall Street Times

Hong Kong set to lift hamsters importation ban

Image Source: South China Morning Post

Hong Kong is likely to end its year-long ban on hamster imports later this month as it eases some of the strictest Covid regulations in the world.

The city’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation (AFCD) says that the rats and mice will be checked for the virus.

Officials said last year that about 2,000 animals would have to be killed to stop the spread of Covid.

The decision was made because of an illness that spread through a pet store.

A line of rodents

Hong Kong prohibited the import of hamsters last year after an outbreak of the Delta strain of Covid-19 was linked to a staff at the city’s Little Boss pet shop.

Officials in the coronavirus industry were forced to examine hundreds of animals. Eleven hamsters imported from the Netherlands performed well.

Officials indicated this could have been a case of animal-to-human Covid transmission and that 2,000 hamsters and other small animals will be destroyed as a “preventative measure.”

Thousands of people intitially signed a petition against the decision to put the animals down at the time.

Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid, can be caught by pets such as dogs, cats, and hamsters. However, there is no solid evidence that pets can easily transmit the virus to humans.

Last year, Louis Yeung, the proprietor of the Chinchilla & Pets Shop in Hong Kong, said he gave the authorities 22 hamsters to be culled.

He told the BBC that if import restrictions are relaxed, he expects to resell the creatures.

Following a similar move by mainland China, Hong Kong relaxed nearly all Covid restrictions last month.

Visitors to the city, a Chinese special administrative zone, are no longer need to undergo mandatory PCR tests.

A vaccine pass system was also scrapped, but masks were still necessary for public locations.

The city has previously implemented some of the most stringent Covid-19 laws in the world.

Hong Kong announced an end to Covid restriction in December

Hong Kong announced in December that it would abolish virtually all Covid restrictions this week, following a similar move by mainland China.

As of Thursday, visitors to the city, a Chinese special administrative zone, will no longer be compelled to submit to mandatory PCR tests.

The immunization pass system will also be taken out, but masks in public places will remain necessary.

It is a brave step by the city, which previously imposed some of the most rigorous restrictions in the world.

The restriction that limited the number of people who might meet outside to 12 is also being lifted as of Thursday.

This was an increase from four people in October as part of the preparations to reopen the city.

According to Hong Kong’s leader, John Lee, strong immunization rates are one of the reasons for lifting restrictions.

According to government statistics, 93% of the population has received two vaccine doses, with more than 83% receiving three.

However, just 64% of individuals over 80 – the most vulnerable age group – have gotten three doses.

Unlike mainland China, which made its vaccines, Hong Kong used mRNA vaccines that are more successful, such as the BioNTech injection developed in Germany.

Mr. Lee stated that instead of the vaccine pass, which has limited unvaccinated people’s access to public places since its adoption in February, the city would seek “more concentrated measures,” such as increasing immunization for the elderly and children.

According to government estimates, more than 11,000 people died in Hong Kong from Covid out of more than 2.5 million cases.

Since the outbreak, the city has usually followed mainland China’s lead in combating the virus, including efforts to eradicate it through a “zero-Covid” strategy.

Some company owners and people have opposed the plan, alleging it has affected Hong Kong’s economy and international standing.

The easing of Hong Kong’s Covid restrictions comes just weeks after mainland China made a similar adjustment in response to historical protests over the stringent limits.

On Monday and Tuesday, Beijing announced further measures to ease travel restrictions. Furthermore, Hong Kong has said it will reopen its borders with the rest of China in mid-January.

Read Also: China criticizes mandatory COVID testing

The mainland is experiencing a rise in instances, with reports stating that hospitals are overcrowded and that older people are dying.

Hong Kong is a Chinese territory governed by the principle of “one nation, two systems,” but Beijing has strengthened its influence in recent years.