Concern is growing of a second wave of the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.66 million people worldwide and killed more than 420,000, even in many countries that seemed to have curbed its spread.
The virus was first reported at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, in December.
People carry goods out of a side entrance of the Jingshen seafood market in Beijing on June 13, 2020. – The market was closed for disinfection and investigation on June 12 after it was found that a newly identified coronavirus patient had visited it.
GREG BAKER / Contributor
A district of Beijing was on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism on Saturday after a cluster of novel coronavirus infections centred around a major wholesale market sparked fears of a new wave of COVID-19.
Concern is growing of a second wave of the pandemic, which has infected more than 7.66 million people worldwide and killed more than 420,000, even in many countries that seemed to have curbed its spread.
The virus was first reported at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, in December.
Chu Junwei, an official of Beijing’s southwestern Fengtai district, told a briefing on Saturday that the district was in “wartime emergency mode”.
Throat swabs from 45 people, out of 517 tested at the district’s Xinfadi wholesale market, had tested positive for the new coronavirus, though none of them showed symptoms of COVID-19, Chu said.
A city spokesman told the briefing that all six COVID-19 patients confirmed in Beijing on Friday had visited the Xinfadi market. The capital will suspend sports events and inter-provincial tourism effective immediately, he said.
One person at an agricultural market in the city’s northwestern Haidian district also tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 without showing symptoms, Chu said.
As part of measures to curb the spread of the virus, Fengtai district said it had locked down 11 neighbourhoods in the vicinity of the market.
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Authorities closed the Xinfadi market at 3 a.m. on Saturday (1900 GMT on Friday), after two men working at a meat research centre who had recently visited the market were reported on Friday to have been infected. It was not immediately clear how the men had been infected.
“Preliminary judgment suggests these cases may have come into contact with a contaminated environment in the market, or were infected after being in contact with infected people. We cannot rule out subsequent cases in the future,” said Pang Xinghuo, an official at the Beijing Center for Disease Control.
Beijing authorities had earlier halted beef and mutton trading at the Xinfadi market, alongside closures at other wholesale markets around the city.
Reflecting concerns over the risk of further spread of the virus, major supermarkets in Beijing removed salmon from their shelves overnight after the virus causing COVID-19 was discovered on chopping boards used for imported salmon at the market, the state-owned Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Contact tracing key to containing the coronavirus outbreak
Beijing authorities said more than 10,000 people at the market will take nucleic acid tests to detect coronavirus infections. The city government also said it had dropped plans to reopen schools on Monday for students in grades one through three because of the new cases.
Health authorities visited the home of a Reuters reporter in Beijing’s Dongcheng district on Saturday to ask whether she had visited the Xinfadi market, which is 15 km (9 miles) away. They said the visit was part of patrols Dongcheng was conducting.
China reported 11 new COVID-19 cases and seven asymptomatic infections of the virus for Friday, the national health authority said on Saturday. All six locally transmitted cases were confirmed in Beijing.
Most people in China do not eat dog and cat meat, and animals who end up in this trade are often stolen pets who meet a gruesome end. Photo by Peter Li/HSI
In recent months, China has made rapid progress toward quashing its infamous wildlife and dog meat trades. Last week, we got more good news on this front: China officially confirmed that dogs are pets and are not livestock for eating; and Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus is believed to have originated, prohibited residents from consuming all wildlife.
The declaration that dogs are companions and not livestock, first proposed in April, comes just weeks ahead of the Yulin dog meat festival, which begins June 21st, and where thousands of dogs and cats are killed for their meat each year. We hope this new development will lead to authorities in Yulin reining in—and even putting a complete stop to—this terrible event.
We also hope the declaration will lead China to act swiftly to end the dog and cat meat trade wherever it exists in the nation. Most people in China do not eat dog and cat meat, and animals who end up in this trade are often stolen pets who meet a gruesome end.
Unfortunately, the final livestock list issued by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs does include some wild animals, including foxes, raccoon dogs and mink, who suffer immensely in the fur trade. Keeping these animals in close, confined conditions has been known to increase the risk of zoonotic disease spread. We call on China to reconsider this decision and ensure that all wild animals are kept off the livestock list, and to ban the fur trade as well, if it truly wants to rebrand itself as a nation that cares about global human health and animal welfare.
Wuhan’s ban on eating wild animals now brings up to four the total number of Chinese cities that have announced similar bans. In April, the city of Shenzhen first banned the eating of wildlife and included dogs and cats in its ban. Last week, the city announced a free program for microchipping all of the city’s 220,000 dogs to encourage responsible pet ownership and stop the stealing of dogs for the meat trade. Also last month, the city of Zhuhai adopted a ban on wildlife and dog and meat consumption and the nation’s capital city, Beijing, banned the eating of wildlife.
But while the bans in these other cities are permanent, the ban in Wuhan will only be in place for five years. We are calling on Wuhan to make its ban permanent, because science and history have shown that these markets present great health risk to humans and they need to be closed down in China and elsewhere around the globe where they exist.
We also urge China, which announced a temporary nationwide ban on wildlife consumption in February, to make that ban permanent.
Last month we reported that several provinces in mainland China, including Hunan and Jiangxi, are offering wildlife farmers a buy-out to move away from breeding wild animals for food and transition to alternative livelihoods such as growing fruit, vegetables, tea plants or herbs for traditional Chinese medicine. This plan is similar to the one we have implemented in South Korea, where we have been successfully transitioning farmers out of the dog meat trade and into more humane livelihoods for six years now.
The developments in China are being accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, but they are truly heartening for our Humane Society International team which, along with local partners on the ground, has been sowing the seeds for this transformation in attitudes and practice for years now. We have contributed to public education, met with government officials, assisted with the rescue of dogs and cats bound for slaughter, and brought global attention to China’s dog meat trade by focusing media attention on events like Yulin where companion animals suffer so terribly each year. We have also shone the spotlight on the wildlife trade, which has led to some species of wild animals, including pangolins and tigers, being pushed to the brink of extinction.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that treating animals cruelly can result in disaster for humans, and there hasn’t been a better time to recognize the harm these practices cause and to root them out. The momentum in China shows signs of growing even stronger: at the just concluded annual session of the National People’s Congress, delegates to the national legislature submitted several proposals to outlaw animal cruelty, shut down the wildlife trade, outlaw dog meat trade, ban the online transmission of animal cruelty images and videos and end animal performances. All of this is very promising, and we applaud the nation for moving forward on this important path that will benefit both its people and its animals for generations to come.
In late April, three of Yum China Holdings’ KFC locations in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai carried plant-based nuggets mimicking the texture and taste of meat. They’re made from soy, wheat, peas, and locally-sourced water chestnuts. This trial came after a soft launch of Beyond Fried Chicken — KFC’s vegan fried chicken line in the United States — earlier this year.
The faux nuggets quickly sold out, showing that many people approve of plant-based food.
Following this success, Cargill decided to make more plant-based foods available in China. Beginning at the end of June, the company will offer products to retailers via its PlantEver line and will also cater to the food service sector.
Plant-based protein producers claim that many consumers are rethinking their food choices due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the demand for plant-based products is surging even more than before.
“The launch is just the beginning,” managing director of Cargill Protein China Jackson Chan told Reuters, “and we look forward to continuing to innovate.”
Other companies are seeing success in China with their plant-based products, as well. Starbucks recently introduced a vegan lunch menu featuring Beyond Meat’s products at its Chinese locations.
Washington (CNN)The Trump administration is formulating a long-term plan to punish China on multiple fronts for the coronavirus pandemic, injecting a rancorous new element into a critical relationship already on a steep downward slide.
The effort matches but goes far beyond an election campaign strategy of blaming Beijing to distract from President Donald Trump’s errors in predicting and handling the crisis, which has now killed more than 60,000 Americans.
Multiple sources inside the administration say that there is an appetite to use various tools, including sanctions, canceling US debt obligations and drawing up new trade policies, to make clear to China, and to everyone else, where they feel the responsibility lies.
“We have to get the economy going again, we have to be careful about how we do this,” said one administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But we will find ways to show the Chinese that their actions are completely reprehensible.”
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The intelligence community is meanwhile coming under enormous pressure from the administration, with senior officials pushing to find out whether the virus escaped into the public from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, two sources familiar with the frustrations said.
In an unprecedented move, the intelligence community issued a statement saying it was surging resources on the matter as it would in any crisis.
“The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the statement said.
CNN reported earlier this month that the government was looking into the theory that the virus originated in the lab but hadn’t yet able to corroborate it. Earlier this month Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the weight of evidence suggests the virus was of natural origin.
The New York Times reported Thursday that officials were pressuring intelligence analysts to find information supporting the idea.
“I think we will figure it out,” an administration official said, when asked if it was possible the origin of the virus would never be established.
The US-China clash is brewing amid growing suspicion inside the administration over China’s rising strategic challenge and fury that the virus destroyed an economy seen as Trump’s passport to a second term.
“I am very confident that the Chinese Communist Party will pay a price for what they did here, certainly from the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week.
The building confrontation comes as both sides seek to exploit an already fragmented geopolitical environment already shaken by their rivalry that has been thoroughly fragmented by the pandemic.
In the long term, it threatens to cause uneasy choices for US Asian allies who are also keen not to antagonize the giant in their backyard. And the growing tension could have significant repercussions for the global economy as the US seeks to wean itself off supply chains dominated by China.
There are serious questions to be addressed about China’s transparency in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan and whether its autocratic system fostered an attempt to cover it up. The United States is not the only nation that wants answers amid a pandemic that has devastated the global economy and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
In response to building pressure, China has launched a propaganda effort to distract from its own culpability, including blaming US soldiers for importing the pathogen in remarks that infuriated Trump.
Administration sizes up options
Officials note that finding ways to punish China will be a sensitive business.
“We’ll get the timing right,” Pompeo said on Wednesday. In the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, China has the capacity to hit back at the United States making it “irresponsible” to drive too hard too early, officials say.
With the US afflicted by shortages of personal protective equipment, medical devices, biologic drugs and Chinese-made pharmaceuticals, it is vulnerable to short-term disruption in established supply chains amid a pandemic that has infected more than a million Americans.
Pompeo appeared to demonstrate this restraint last week when he was asked about new Chinese export controls that have prevented US medical supplies from getting to the US. In private, US officials are irate, but in public Pompeo used delicate language.
“The good news is we have seen China provide those resources. Sometimes they’re from US companies that are there in China, but we’ve had success,” Pompeo said.
“We are counting on China to continue to live up to its contractual obligations and international obligations to provide that assistance to us and to sell us those goods,” Pompeo said.
In the longer term, especially if Trump wins reelection, the US effort will likely treat offshore supply chains as national security priorities rather than as simply economic questions.
“If we fail to do that in the face of this crisis, we will have failed this country and all future generations of Americans. It is that clear,” Trump economic advisor Peter Navarro told CNN.
A tense turn in US-China relations
The toughened posture toward China is consistent with Trump’s rejection of the principles of Sino-US ties that date back to President Richard Nixon’s courting of the then-closed communist state in the early 1970s.
Trump says that the process of ushering Beijing into the world economy in an effort to avoid a clash between the dominant power, the US, and China, the rising one — known as the Thucydides Trap — has been a disaster.
He has argued that Washington has emboldened and enriched a foe with nearly three times its population and that has “raped” US industry in the flight of blue-collar jobs abroad.
It was a message that was electrified Trump supporters in the decaying US rustbelt in 2016 and is one on which he is relying to brand his presumptive Democratic opponent as a China-appeasing tool of the foreign policy elite in November.
“This is the natural way to go. It’s the only way to go. It is pretty much the main campaign theme,” said an official familiar with the campaign’s messaging efforts focused on China.
The administration’s national security strategy — which was laid out in 2017 — also casts China as a competitor and a revisionist power.
But as is often the case, the administration’s hard line is undermined or tempered by the President’s own unorthodox personality and approach to his job.
Trump’s over-personalized approach to world leaders and his fixation with preserving his friendship with Xi is also directly contradicting his political and diplomatic strategy.
“We are not happy with China,” Trump said Tuesday but his statements are undercut by the multiple times he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his handling of the pandemic earlier this year, apparently partly motivated by a desire to keep a US-China trade deal, one of the few limited wins of his administration, on track.
One disadvantage of Trump’s insistence on forging friendships with strongman leaders is that it leaves national relationships more susceptible to any fractures in personal ties.
Both Trump and Xi are the most aggressive, nationalistic leaders of their two nations in decades, who are keen to flex personal power in a way that can cause volatile foreign relations.
And the US President is not alone in facing domestic incentives to initiate confrontation. While China’s Communist Party leaders enjoy absolute power, they are susceptible to internal political pressures — especially as they try, like Trump, to deflect from their own virus missteps.
In its own disinformation offensive, Beijing has blamed US troops for bringing the novel coronavirus to China. On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang accused “American politicians” of telling barefaced lies about the pandemic.
“They have only one objective: to try to shirk responsibility for their own epidemic and prevention and control measures and divert public attention,” Geng said.
The heated rhetoric over the virus threatens to unleash a chain reaction of mistrust and tension that worsens tensions between the US and China exacerbated by Trump’s trade war, territorial flashpoints including in the South China Sea and the global US campaign against the Huawei communications giant.
Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned on CNN last week that the building heat was dangerous.
“Frankly, it is each side pushing each other’s hyper nationalism buttons and we are getting nowhere,” she said.
The US/China freeze
Relations with China have plummeted in recent years, amid rising tensions over trade, Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its rise to challenge the US strategically.
Trump’s decision to freeze funding for the World Health Organization, based on claims it was too solicitous from China, could also further undercut US influence, especially in Asia where the US withdrawal from the the Trans Pacific Partnership was a big win for Beijing.
China does have a record of overplaying its hand and driving regional powers back into the US orbit. The Obama administration exploited such a misstep with its Asia pivot.
Recent failures such as flawed personal protective equipment sent to Europe have tarnished Beijing’s coronavirus diplomacy. Racist treatment of Africans in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has had a similar effect. And despite its efforts to change the story, China may never escape the notoriety of being the incubator for the disease and claims its autocratic system was responsible for critical delays in tackling the virus.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. spy agency said for the first time on Thursday the American intelligence community believes the COVID-19 virus that originated in China was not manmade or genetically modified.
FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.
The Office of Director of National Intelligence statement contradicted conspiracy theories floated by anti-China activists and some supporters of President Donald Trump suggesting the new coronavirus was developed by Chinese scientists in a government biological weapons laboratory from which it then escaped.
It also echoed comments by the World Health Organization (WHO), which on April 21 said all available evidence suggests the coronavirus originated in animals in China late last year and was not manipulated or made in a laboratory.
“The Intelligence Community (IC) also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said in a statement.
“The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” it added.
U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis have said for weeks they do not believe conspiracy theories that Chinese scientists developed the coronavirus in a government biological weapons lab from which it then escaped.
Rather, they have said they believe it either was introduced naturally into a Wuhan meat market or could have escaped from one of two Wuhan government laboratories believed to be conducting civilian research into possible biological hazards.
Trump, who has heaped blame on China for the global pandemic, on Thursday said he believes China’s handling of the disease is proof that Beijing “will do anything they can” to make him lose his re-election bid in November.
More than 3.21 million people have been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 227,864 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on Thursday.
In an Oval Office interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Trump talked tough on China and said he was looking at different options in terms of consequences for Beijing over the virus. “I can do a lot,” he said, without providing details.
Reporting By Mark Hosenball; writing by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis
The coronavirus pandemic may have grounded Dr Jane Goodall but she is putting her time in lockdown to good use – by calling for a global ban on wildlife markets linked to the outbreak.
The renowned conservationist, 86, who typically travels 300 days a year, has pivoted to making calls, recording podcasts and videos around the clock, relentlessly pushing her lifelong message of protecting the natural world.
She told The Independent: “I have never been busier in my entire life, except perhaps the last days of trying to get my PhD thesis written.”
In the 1960s, Dr Goodall’s research on the behaviour of chimpanzees in Tanzania discovered that our closest living relatives were a lot more like us than previously believed – they have their own personalities, can use tools, mimic each other and grieve for the loss of friends.
For decades, she has urged the world to respect nature, a message that has never been more acute in the face of the coronavirus that had led to more than 98,000 deaths and 1.6 million confirmed cases around the world, also decimating the global economy.
Environmentalists told The Independent last month that the coronavirus would not be the last pandemic to wreak havoc on humanity if we continue to ignore links between infectious diseases and destruction of the natural world.
Zoonotic diseases – those transmitted from animals to humans – cause 2.5 billion cases of human illness and 2.7 million deaths each year around the world, according to the National Institutes of Health. The spread of diseases such as HIV, Ebola, Sars, Mers and Zika are also believed to have originated in animals.
Dr Goodall, along with fellow activists and the UN’s acting executive secretary on biological diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, are calling for restrictions on wildlife trafficking and the sale of live animals at “wet markets”. The coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated at such a market in Wuhan, China, where wild animals were sold, and made the jump to humans from animals kept in close proximity.
“As we destroy the environment, animals are living in smaller and smaller spaces, and viruses are transferring from one animal to another,” Dr Goodall says.
“Then there’s wildlife trafficking and the handling of wild animals. They are kept crowded together with people in the meat markets. Not just in China, but across many parts of Asia and also with the bushmeat trade in Africa.
“This is where a virus gets the opportunity to jump from animals into people, and that’s what happened with Covid-19.
“The awful thing is that this has been predicted. People knew it was coming, they talked about it but nobody did anything.”
She adds: “We have moved into this destructive and greedy period of human history where we are destroying the environment and putting economic growth ahead of environmental protections, even though we are thus destroying the future for our own children.
“Now we see this resulting in this current pandemic, which is having a horrific effect on the planet.”
“I’m hoping that governments around the world will cooperate with the facts and that there will be a global ban on all of these markets, trafficking and eating of wildlife.
“But we also have to remember that some of these epidemics have started with viruses jumping from domestic animals in awful intensive farms, where the conditions are horrendous, with crowding and poor hygiene.
“It’s not just wildlife, it’s the way that we treat our domestic animals, too.
“Science has now admitted what as a little girl I learned from my dog. Animals, like us, are sentient. They can feel fear and despair. They have personalities and are amazingly intelligent.
“When we talk about wildlife trafficking, we just think, ‘Oh, that’s wildlife’. But it’s millions of individuals who can suffer, feel pain and despair.
“We need to respect the natural world. We can’t go on and on taking natural resources for economic development on a planet with finite natural resources.
“If we go on treating animals the way that we are, that is going to hit back on us, as it has.”
In an op-ed this week, Dr Goodall wrote: “This is a global trade, and every country and individual must do its part to create more comprehensive legislation to protect wildlife, end illegal trafficking, ban trafficking across national borders, and ban sales (especially online). And we must fight corruption that allows these activities to continue even when they are banned or illegal.”
Dr Goodall, who was created Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2003, says individuals, too, can play a role.
“Some people are raising moneys to help NGOs keep going. We are trying to protect chimpanzees in Africa because they can catch [Covid-19] from us and they are endangered.
“Our Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) people are wonderful – they’re rising to the challenge. Many people giving even small donations makes a big difference to our teams in the field to get the proper testing kits.”
It is crucial that any bans on markets and trafficking take into account the people in different parts of the world whose livelihoods and diets currently depend on wildlife, Dr Goodall says.
“If we suddenly close everything down, as there has been a demand to the United Nations, we have got to think of how these people rely on wildlife and find alternative ways for them to make a living.”
The JGI’s Tacare programme helps communities move away from wildlife trade. “It’s our method of community-based conservation. It’s very holistic but it includes helping people find alternative ways of making a living without destroying the environment,” Dr Goodall says.
“There’s a microcredit program where groups, mostly women, can take out tiny loans to buy a few chickens and sell the eggs or have a tree nursery and sell the saplings, for example.
“It’s what people want, not what we impose upon them. The only criteria is that it’s got to be environmentally sustainable.”
The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the devastating consequences that can unfold when we don’t respect boundaries with nature.
In the US, Donald Trump has rolled back environmental protections, withdrawn the country from the Paris Agreement on climate change and overhauled the Endangered Species Act, which environmentalists say puts more wildlife at greater risk of extinction.
Dr Goodall is not optimistic that Mr Trump will change his views on protecting the environment, even in the wake of the coronavirus.
“I kind of doubt it. I don’t know, it should do,” she says. “But our prime minister in the UK is also pushing economic development ahead of environmental protections. The same is true in Brazil and Tanzania.
“It’s not just President Trump, but he sort of hits the media because he sometimes says some very strange things.”
But there are some leaders that give cause for optimism, Dr Goodall says.
“Leaders of countries like Costa Rica and Colombia and a couple of African countries are taking very firm steps to protect the environment. More and more European and US NGOs are doing what they can to help.”
She adds: “What I’m hoping is because of the shutdown worldwide, many places are now seeing unpolluted air. I think a lot of people living in the cities have never known what it’s like and now they’ve got experience.
“I’m hoping that there will be a groundswell of people who are so horrified at the thought of going back to polluted skies that the sheer numbers will force governments to change their policies.”
Since 1991, she has encouraged young people to protect the natural world through her youth scheme, Roots & Shoots.
“Roots & Shoots is now in 65 countries, and my vision is to have the programme everywhere. That’s just a dream, but on the other hand, it began with 12 high school students, and since then hundreds of thousands of young people have been through the programme. Each group of Roots & Shoots chooses three projects to make the world better: One to help people, one to help animals and one to help the environment.
“Many of them are now in influential positions, and they hang on to the values that they acquired. Their message is every one of us makes an impact every single day and we can choose what sort of impact, unless we are living in desperate poverty – in which case we just do what it takes to stay alive.”
At a time when there is so much despair and anger from young people about the future because of climate change and environmental destruction, Dr Goodall tries to offer hope from her own experiences.
“I lived through the second world war when I was a little girl. It was very grim. We were then fighting a physical enemy, and this is an invisible enemy but the results are sort of the same. We never knew where the bombs were going to fall, which houses would be destroyed, which of our friends would be killed, and that’s a little bit the same now. But we came through it.
“I was in New York at the time of the fall of the Twin Towers, the 9/11 terrorist attack. It seemed like the end of the world but we got through that.
“There’s this indomitable human spirit you can see all around the world in communities helping each other.
“I’ve seen so many wonderful stories of people helping each other, taking food around and making themselves available for telephone calls from lonely, frightened people.”
She adds: “I myself have started reading children books so that they can get these stories while they’re forced to be at home and sending out video messages of encouragement that we will get through this – we must not give up, and let’s do our bit.”
The coronavirus, Dr Goodall says, may alter how she spreads her message.
“It may force change. I imagine when the airlines start flying again they may have to put their fares up so it may not be possible to do as much flying as I did.
“I look on it as practice for the time when my body says, ‘No Jane, enough, we‘re not going to allow you carry on like this’. Because it’s very exhausting, all the travelling I was doing.
“However, we have to get the message out that we’ve got to change but let’s have hope that we’re going to come out of this better people.
“We have to push our politicians in the right direction that we want.”
China has approved traditional medicines which include bear bile and goat horn as remedies for the COVID-19 infection.
In a bid to control the spread of coronavirus and treat infected patients, China’s National Health Commission published a list of recommended traditional and Western treatments for the virus last month.
And one of the six traditional Chinese treatments included in the guidelines is Tan re Qing- which is made from bear bile, goat horn powder and herbs.
The medicine prepared by a Shanghai pharmaceutical company following traditional Chinese medicine protocols is claimed to treat patients with respiratory diseases, including pneumonia, acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis.
Even President Xi Jinping has been actively promoting traditional medicine calling it “treasure of Chinese civilisation” and stressing that it should be given equal importance as other treatments.
This recommendation comes after imposing a ban on sale of wild animals for food amid the coronavirus outbreak, which is thought to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan that sells and harbors live and dead wild animals.
‘Both tragic and ironic’
A number of wildlife campaigners and animal rights activists have condemned the Chinese government and branded the news as ‘both tragic and ironic’ because it defeats the purpose of the ban implemented to stop the illegal animal trade.
“Across Asia, bear bile trade is widespread, although it is illegal in most countries,” said Richard Thomas of animal rights non-governmental organization Traffic.
“The active ingredient in bear bile, ursodeoxycholic acid, is readily synthesized in laboratories — so even if it did prove to be popular, there should be no need for bear bile to be included (in medicines).”
In a statement, Aron White, EIA Wildlife Campaigner and China Specialist, said: “Restricting the eating of wildlife while promoting medicines containing wildlife parts exemplifies the mixed messages being sent by the Chinese authorities on wildlife trade.
“Aside from the irony of promoting a wildlife product for treatment of a disease which the scientific community has overwhelmingly concluded originated in wildlife, the continued promotion of the use of threatened wildlife in medicine is hugely irresponsible in an era of unprecedented biodiversity loss, including illegal and unsustainable trade.
“At this moment in history, as the world is crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, there could be no better time to end the use of the parts of threatened wildlife in medicine, especially as recent surveys conducted in China showed the vast majority of respondents were opposed to use of wildlife in medicine.”
‘Medicines should heal without harm’
Wildlife advocates also voiced their concerns that approving bear bile would in turn increase bear bile farms and justify animal abuse.
According to The Independent, bear bile farms in China and Vietnam account for nearly 12,000 bears held in captivity for their bile.
Highlighting the cruelty, Animals Asia, a nonprofit dedicated to ending bear bile farming said that bear bile farms in China and across Southeast Asia keep bears in small cages for decades. The tiny cages restrict bear movements to such an extent that they are not even able to stand on all fours and most of these bears “are starved, dehydrated and suffering from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that not only contaminate their bile but ultimately kill them.”
In a statement on bear bile usage to treat COVID-19, the group said: “Animals Asia believes we shouldn’t be relying on wildlife products like bear bile as the solution to combat a deadly virus that appears to have originated from wildlife. It is accurate to assert the active ingredient in bear bile, UDCA, is effective in treating some conditions.
“This is the reason it has been produced synthetically (not using bile from bears) for decades and sold by the tonne across the world.
“Additionally, we understand according to the National Health Commission, Tanreqing has been used to successfully treat respiratory conditions like pneumonia and similar illnesses to COVID-19 for several years with success.
“However, traditional Chinese medicine has thousands of years of practical application and knowledge to draw upon, together with a philosophy of balancing harmony and peace with the environment. Such medicines should heal without harm.”
Brian Daly, a spokesman for the Animals Asia Foundation added: “Promotion of bear bile has the propensity to increase the amount used, affecting not only captive bears, but also those in the wild, potentially compromising an already endangered species in Asia and across the world.”
‘Let’s face it, it is a little bit medieval eating bats.’
Sir Paul McCartney launched into a passionate rant aimed at the Chinese government’s reluctance to shut down wet markets- the suspected origin of the deadly coronavirus that has already killed tens of thousands, altered the daily lives of hundreds of millions, and put the entire world on edge.
Discussing the current pandemic situation on a call with US radio host Howard Stern on Sirius XM, this Tuesday, McCartney said: “I really hope that this will mean the Chinese government says, ‘OK guys, we have really got to get super hygienic around here.’
“Let’s face it, it is a little bit medieval eating bats.”
Stern echoing McCartney’s sentiment noted that it was “mind boggling” that China was reluctant to shut down the markets despite the current situation.
In reply, McCartney said: “It wouldn’t be so bad if this is the only thing it seems like you can blame on those wet markets.
“It seems like Sars, avian flu, all sorts of other stuff that has afflicted us … and what’s it for? For these quite medieval practices. They need to clean up their act. This may lead to [change]. If this doesn’t, I don’t know what will.”
‘Letting off atomic bombs’
Self-isolating at his home in Sussex with daughter Mary and her family, the former Beatles frontman and animal rights activist added that “whoever is responsible for this is at war with the world and itself.”
In reply to Stern’s next question on the idea of banning the wet markets, the 77-year-old answered: “I think it makes a lot of sense…when you’ve got the obscenity of some of the stuff that’s going on there and what comes out of it, they might as well be letting off atomic bombs. It’s affecting the whole world.”
Even majority of the stalls at Wuhan’s biggest wet market Baishazhou have resumed business after lockdown rules were laxed at the epicentre.
‘Shut them right away’
Comparing China’s resistance to close the markets to the country’s slavery culture in the past, McCartney added: “I understand that part of it is going to be, ‘People have done it forever. This is the way we do things.’ But they did slavery forever, too. You’ve got to change things at some point.”
McCartney joins several other dignitaries that feel wet markets need to go.
In an interview with the Mirror, the 58-year-old said: “For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now.”
Even America’s chief infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci implied the ongoing public health crisis was a “direct result” of the thriving wet animal markets and demanded that authorities “should shut down those things right away.”
In the public mind, the origin story of coronavirus seems well fixed: in late 2019 someone at the now world-famous Huanan seafood market in Wuhan was infected with a virus from an animal.
The rest is part of an awful history still in the making, with Covid-19 spreading from that first cluster in the capital of China’s Hubei province to a pandemic that has killed about 80,000 people so far.
Stock footage of pangolins – a scaly mammal that looks like an anteater – have made it on to news bulletins, suggesting this animal was the staging post for the virus before it spread to humans.
But there is uncertainty about several aspects of the Covid-19 origin story that scientists are trying hard to unravel, including which species passed it to a human. They’re trying hard because knowing how a pandemic starts is a key to stopping the next one.
Prof Stephen Turner, head of the department of microbiology at Melbourne’s Monash University, says what’s most likely is that virus originated in bats.
But that’s where his certainty ends, he says.
On the hypothesis that the virus emerged at the Wuhan live animal market from an interaction between an animal and a human, Turner says: “I don’t think it’s conclusive by any means.”
“Part of the problem is that the information is only as good as the surveillance,” he says, adding that viruses of this type are circulating all the time in the animal kingdom.
The fact that the virus has infected a tiger in a New York zoo shows how viruses can move around between species, he says. “Understanding the breadth of species this virus can infect is important as it helps us narrow down down where it might have come from.”
Scientists say it is highly likely that the virus came from bats but first passed through an intermediary animal in the same way that another coronavirus – the 2002 Sars outbreak – moved from horseshoe bats to cat-like civets before infecting humans.
One animal implicated as an intermediary host between bats and humans is the pangolin. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says they are “the most illegally traded mammal in the world” and are prized for their meat and the claimed medicinal properties of their scales.
As reported in Nature, pangolins were not listed on the inventory of items being sold in Wuhan, although this omission could be deliberate as it’s illegal to sell them.
“Whether the poor pangolin was the species at which it jumped, it’s not clear,” Turner says. “It’s either mixed in something else, mixed in a poor pangolin, or it’s jumped into people and evolved in people.”
Prof Edward Holmes, of the University of Sydney, was a co-author on a Nature study that examined the likely origins of the virus by looking at its genome. On social media he has stressed that the identity of the species that served as an intermediate host for the virus is “still uncertain”.
One statistical study looked at a characteristic of the virus that evolved to enable it to latch on to human cells. Pangolins were able to develop this characteristic, but so were cats, buffalo, cattle, goats, sheep and pigeons.
Another study claimed to have ruled out pangolins as an intermediary altogether, because samples of similar viruses taken from pangolins lacked a chain of amino acids seen in the virus now circulating in humans.
The study Holmes worked on suggested that the scenario in which a human at the Wuhan market interacted with an animal that carried the virus was only one potential version of the Covid-19 origin story. Another was the possibility that a descendent of the virus jumped into humans and then adapted as it was passed from human to human.
“Once acquired, these adaptations would enable the pandemic to take off and produce a sufficiently large cluster of cases to trigger the surveillance system that detected it,” the study said.
Analysis of the first 41 Covid-19 patients in medical journal the Lancet found that 27 of them had direct exposure to the Wuhan market. But the same analysis found that the first known case of the illness did not.
This might be another reason to doubt the established story.
Prof Stanley Perlman, a leading immunologist at the University of Iowa and an expert on previous coronavirus outbreaks that have stemmed from animals, says the idea the link to the Wuhan market is coincidental “cannot be ruled out” but that possibility “seems less likely” because the genetic material of the virus had been found in the market environment.
Perlman told Guardian Australia he does believe there was an intermediary animal but adds that while pangolins are possible candidates, they “are not proven to be the key intermediary”.
“I suspect that any evolution [of the virus] occurred in the intermediate animal if there was one. There has been no substantial changes in the virus in the three months of the pandemic, indicating that the virus is well adapted to humans.”
Dr Michelle Baker, an immunologist at CSIRO who studies viruses in bats, says some of the research on Covid-19’s origins have stepped off from what was known from the past.
But “we really don’t know” how accurate the origin story is, she says: “There’s some sort of connection [to the Wuhan market] and there were people exposed to the market that were infected.”
Baker says what is “very likely” is that the virus originated in a bat. “It’s a likely scenario but we will never know. The market was cleaned up quite quickly. We can only speculate.”
“These wet markets have been identified as an issue because you do have species interacting,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to highlight the dangers of them and an opportunity to clamp down on them.”
Turner adds: “We’ve found the ancestors of the virus, but having broader knowledge of the coronavirus in other species might give us a hint about the evolution of this thing and how it jumped.”
Due to the unprecedented and ongoing nature of the coronavirus outbreak, this article is being regularly updated to ensure that it reflects the current situation at the date of publication. Any significant corrections made to this or previous versions of the article will continue to be footnoted in line with Guardian editorial policy.
PETALING JAYA: Two environmental groups have warned of a threat to the survival of the already endangered Malaysian sun bear, now that China is promoting bear bile as treatment for Covid-19.
Spokesmen for Monitor Conservation Research Society and the Malaysian Ecotourism and Conservation Society (Ecomy) told FMT they feared a rise in incidents of poaching.
Loretta Shepherd, Monitor’s communication coordinator, cited a recent study showing poachers were continuing to hunt for sun bears to cater to a demand by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners in Sabah and Sarawak.
According to the study, conducted last year, bear bile products were sold in 35% of traditional medicine outlets in Sabah and 19.3% of those in Sarawak.
Shepherd acknowledged that greater environmental awareness and reductions in the sun bear population had caused a steady drop in the use of bear bile over the years, but she said the threat of extinction remained serious.
She warned of the possibility of local traditional medicine practitioners following Beijing’s suit in promoting bear bile as a cure for Covid-19.
“Desperate consumers may easily be swayed,” she said.
“There is a very real chance that our sun bears will be at increased risk. We could see an increase in the use of bear bile medicine and a rise in the poaching of sun bears.”
A recent news report said Beijing had approved the use of bear bile to treat Covid-19, weeks after it banned the sale of wild animals for food, citing the risk of diseases spreading from animals to humans.
Last month, China’s National Health Commission issued guidelines recommending the use of an injection that contains bear bile powder, goat horn and three other medicinal herbs for the treatment of critically ill coronavirus patients.
Ecomy CEO Andrew Sebastian said he found it “repugnant” that Beijing was promoting the use of bear bile.
He accused China of “always fuelling the demand and supply chain” for wildlife.
“The demand for bear bile will increase and poachers will target the animals for current and future use.
“Local consumption is also something we need to be worried about,” he said.
Sebastian warned of a strain on the resources that the government has invested in for the protection of wildlife.
Nevertheless, he called for the investment of more resources into efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, saying such resources were especially needed in monitoring and the enforcement of laws.
He also claimed there is no possibility that a vaccine against Covid-19 could be found from wildlife sources.
Shepherd said promoting bear bile as medicine would perpetuate the notion that wild animals could continue to be exploited despite the availability of viable, legal and safe alternatives that do not endanger wildlife or people.