Hong Kong government is all set to kill all hamsters sold in pet shops after several hamsters at a Causeway Bay Pet Shop tested positive of COVID-19- the world's first such observation.
Almost 2,000 hamsters will be killed at 34 local pet shops, as official call upon citizens to surrender hamsters they bought since December 22.
Rabbits and Chinchillas at the Causeway Bay pet shop and the shop's Tai Po shortage house will also be killed, although none tested positive as Tuesday afternoon.
The decision to cull the animals came as authorities have yet to confirm scientifically whether hamsters can infect humans.
The hamsters from Little Boss pet shop-tested positive for the coronavirus after an employee and a 67-year-old customer was diagnosed with COVID. The customer's husband also tested preliminarily positive for the virus today.
Health officers tested 78 hamsters, chinchillas, and rabbits inside the shop. Eleven samples in hamsters tested positive.
They have also taken 511 samples in the Tai Po storage house. Some environmental samples, including cages, tested positive, and other results are still pending.
Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Dr. Leung Siu-fai said the two batches of hamsters in question were imported from the Netherlands on October 22 and January 7. Leung said over 1,000 hamsters sold at the city's 34 hamster-selling pet shops would be put down, along with another 1,000 small animals from the Tai Po warehouse.
Leung also urged customers who purchased any hamsters in Hong Kong since October 22 to hand over their hamsters to health authorities. The owners of the pets will be subjected to mandatory Covid testing.
Over 150 customers who have visited Little Boss since January 7 will have to be quarantined. Around 30 workers working at the Taipo warehouse will also be quarantined.
Asked if the government made a rash decision to kill hamsters and disrespects life, an official said they acted out of public health concerns. The hamsters could infect other animals and staffers feeding them.
It is still investigating whether pet shop infections are human-to-human or hamster-to-human. According to the official, there has been no report of hamsters getting infected outside of laboratory settings, but previous experiments showed that they could be infected by Covid-19.