By Lisette Voytko, Forbes
China’s top political body banned the trade and consumption of wild animals, CNN reported Monday morning, making the suspension enacted in January permanent as the coronavirus—thought to have originated in a Chinese wildlife market—continues to spread across the world.
— The National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved the ban in an effort to “safeguard public health and ecological security,” CNN reported, citing Chinese state media.
— The ban has two goals: one would completely stop the “trade of wildlife,” while the other would entirely ban “the eating of wild animals,” according to CNN.
— Wild animals to be used for scientific and medical research will now need to go through a strict government approval process.
— According to the New York Times, pangolins—a type of scaly anteater—are suspected to be the animal source of the coronavirus outbreak, but that has not been confirmed.
— Pangolins are one of the world’s most trafficked mammals, with their meat and blood considered delicacies by some black markets, while their scaly pelts are legally used in some traditional Chinese medicine.
— Meanwhile, South Korea, Iran, and Italy are reported large increases in their numbers of coronavirus cases Monday, and at least 30 countries have confirmed cases so far.
Big number: Millions. That’s how many wild animals are believed to be trafficked each day, according to the Times.
Key background: China previously enacted a temporary wildlife trade ban during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. Once fears of that virus passed, wildlife trade continued. Scientists and conservationists have been calling for a ban for over three decades, while some groups have supported controlled captive breeding of some wild animals.
According to the Times, the chances of a wild animal passing a virus to a human are pretty low, but the wildlife markets create environments that make transmission much easier. Cages are stacked on top of each other, and workers are not washing their hands or switching knives or chopping blocks for each type of animal.
As of Monday morning, over 2,600 people have died from the coronavirus while over 79,000 have been sickened across the world.