Around 2,000 small animals including hamsters will be culled after several of the rodents tested positive for COVID-19 at a pet store in Hong Kong.
The city’s authorities announced the move after an employee in the pet shop tested positive for the Delta variant on Monday.
Several hamsters imported from the Netherlands at the same store also tested positive for the virus.
Hong Kong has subsequently halted the sale of hamsters and the import of small mammals, according to officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
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“If you own a hamster, you should keep your hamsters at home, do not take them out,” department director Leung Siu-fai said at a news conference.
‘Do not kiss your pets.’
“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.
“Do not kiss your pets.”
While authorities have acknowledged there is “no evidence” that pets can transmit COVID to humans, customers who purchased hamsters from the affected store after 7 January will be traced and subject to mandatory quarantine as a precautionary measure.
They are also being required also hand over their new pets to authorities to be put down.
All pet stores selling hamsters in Hong Kong have been ordered to cease operations and around 2,000 small mammals, including hamsters and chinchillas, will be culled in a humane manner.
Transmission between humans and animals not ruled out
Those who purchased a hamster in the city from 22 December will also be subject to mandatory testing and are urged not to go into the community until their tests have returned negative.
They will be asked to quarantine if their hamsters test positive for the virus.
Authorities said that for now, they would not rule out transmission between humans and animals.
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In other news, two former flight attendants have been arrested by Hong Kong police for allegedly leaving their homes when they should have been in isolation for possible positive COVID infections, which were later confirmed.
The pair arrived from the US on 24 and 24 December, and according to a government statement, they had “conducted unnecessary activities” while in medical surveillance.
While the statement did not name their employer, flagship carrier Cathay Pacific later said it had fired two crew members for breaching coronavirus measures.