Hong Kong is mass-culling 2,000 hamsters and making owners hand over their pets amid fears that they might pass COVID-19 to people

·2 min read
Hong Kong is mass-culling 2,000 hamsters and making owners hand over their pets amid fears that they might pass COVID-19 to people
An image of a golden hamster snacking on a bowl of seeds and nuts.
Hong Kong plans to cull around 2,000 hamsters, and is requesting that the city's residents hand over their pets, amid fears that the rodents might pass COVID-19 to humans.Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Hong Kong wants pet stores and owners to hand their pets over.

  • The authorities aim to cull some 2,000 hamsters over fears that they could pass COVID-19 to people.

  • This is after a pet shop employee became the island city's first untraceable COVID-19 infection in months.

Hong Kong wants pet stores and hamster owners to hand over their pets for culling over fears that the rodents could pass COVID-19 to humans.

The directive from the Hong Kong government was announced on Tuesday after 11 hamsters at the Little Boss pet shop in the city's Causeway Bay area tested positive for COVID-19, per the South China Morning Post. The SCMP reported that the hamsters were tested after the store's shopkeeper became the city's first unlinked COVID-19 infection in three months.

It is estimated that 2,000 hamsters will be euthanized in this mass-culling exercise. Additionally, the import of all small animals into Hong Kong has been suspended.

Leung Siu-fai, the city's director of agriculture, fisheries, and conservation, told the SCMP that people who bought hamsters from December 22 onwards are required to turn in their pets for culling.

"We have assessed the risks of these batches are relatively high and therefore made the decision based on public health needs," Leung said. "We urge all pet owners to observe strict hygiene when handling their pets and cages. Do not kiss or abandon them on the streets."

According to Reuters, Hong Kong is currently reporting an average of 12 new COVID-19 infections daily. The city's total tally of COVID infections since the pandemic began stands at 13,048.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to their owners is low.

"At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people," reads a notification on the CDC's website.

The CDC added that there are documented incidences of animals coming down with COVID-19 after close contact with people who had COVID-19, however. Several animals at the Chicago and Denver Zoos reportedly contracted the virus last year.

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