“Huge hidden dangers to public health & safety”
BEIJING, China––Responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has now killed nearly 2,600 people worldwide, the 170-member National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the top legislative body in China, on February 24, 2020 provisionally banned all consumption of wildlife and trade in wild-caught species, other than fish.
Announced by China Central Television, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee edict is to “completely ban the eating of wild animals,” because of “the huge hidden dangers to public health and safety” resulting from “excessive consumption of wildlife.”
“Safeguarding ecological security”
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee is also “cracking down on illegal trade of wildlife,” to help “safeguard public health and ecological security,” translated freelance journalist Isaac Yee and CNN Shanghai correspondent Yong Xiong.
Added Yee and Xiong, “use of wild animals for scientific research, medicine and exhibition will now need to go through ‘strict examination and approval’ by the supervising department in accordance with relevant regulations. This comes after Chinese authorities suspended the trade of wild animals on January 26, 2020, in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.”
Coronavirus postpones National People’s Congress
The provisional wildlife consumption ban was approved just hours after the National People’s Congress Standing Committee indefinitely postponed what would have been the second mass assembly of 13th National People’s Congress.
Nearly 3,000 regional and local delegates from all parts of China, along with support staff, were to have gathered on March 5, 2020 for a week of meetings in the Great Hall of the People on the west side of Tiananmen Square, Beijing.
The National People’s Congress was delayed because the assembly appeared to have significant potential for further spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.
However, the National People’s Congress will have to issue final approval of the ban on wildlife consumption and trafficking before it becomes codified law.
Failure to act on proposed pangolin ban preceded outbreak
Ironically, COVID-19 is currently believed to have evolved among bats, then spread to pangolins at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people located 400 miles west of Shanghai.
Had the first mass assembly of 13th National People’s Congress in March 2019 acted upon a ban on commerce in pangolin products proposed by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, a pro-Beijing and pro-business conservative political party, the COVID-19 outbreak might not have occurred.
The 13th National People’s Congress concluded, however, without any definitive action on behalf of pangolins.
COVID-19 hits 10 times as many people as SARS
The COVID-19 coronavirus has now infected at least 77,658 residents of China, causing 2,563 known human deaths, following a pattern familiar from the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS] pandemic, but hitting far more people.
Believed to have also evolved among bats, SARS apparently jumped into humans after first infecting civets sold for human consumption. The SARS outbreak, however, produced only about 8,000 identified human cases worldwide, including 774 known fatalities, for a death rate approaching 10%.
Much more easily moving from person to person, the COVID-19 coronavirus has now infected at least 2,418 people among 29 nations other than China, causing 36 known human deaths.
19.6% death rate in Iran
As of February 24, 2020, there have been 833 identified COVID-19 cases in South Korea, with eight deaths; 229 cases in Italy, with seven deaths; 159 cases in Japan, with one death; and 61 cases in Iran, with 12 deaths, where the COVID-19 death rate of 19.6% is by far the highest found so far in any nation.
The overall known death rate of 3.2% from COVID-19, though up significantly in recent days from circa 2.0, is still lower than the death rate from common strains of influenza.
Because the vast majority of people exposed to COVID-19 appear to recover without producing clinical symptoms, it is not considered an especially dangerous disease, but is apparently still just emerging in regions beyond the point of origin.
Ban expected for weeks
Within Wuhan, COVID-19 is now believed to have been at large for several months before it was actually identified as a new form of coronavirus.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee had been expected to issue the wildlife consumption and trafficking ban for about three weeks, after the January 26, 2020 suspension of wildlife sales for human consumption failed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Standing Committee declared on February 4, 2020 that “ It is necessary to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade, and control major public health risks from the source.”
Sporadic shows of enforcement
Chinese authorities have since 2003 made frequent shows of prohibiting illegal commerce in wild-caught animals for human consumption, without sustaining the momentum .
In 2014, for instance, Guangdong province confiscated 180,000 live animals and disposed of the remains of 60,000 wild-caught birds, according to the Xinhua News Agency, in a three-month crackdown on wildlife trafficking focused on the live markets of Guangzhou.
The Italian merchant and explorer Marco Polo identified Guangzhou as the hub of Chinese wildlife consumption, and also of consumption of dogs and cats, circa 1300.