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Wuhan’s wet markets: Blame for Covid-19 casts shadow over future

A wet market in Wuhan, China, on April 15, 2020.
A wet market in Wuhan, China, on April 15, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24

Wuhan’s wet markets, closed for months during the coronavirus lockdown, have now re-opened. But as the suspected source of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the markets have become the subject of international scrutiny, with some calling for them to be banned, and traders say customers are staying away as a result.

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The wet markets, some of which sell live exotic animals alongside fresh vegetables, seafood and meat, are common across China.

But since re-opening following months under lockdown, the markets in Wuhan have been unusually quiet.

“Business is bad. We are about to close it. It’s really bad,” one market trader told Reuters.

Since the outbreak, China has banned the selling of wildlife at wet markets, while the Huanan Seafood Market, where the virus is thought to have originated, remains closed.

But calls for the complete banning of wet markets persist.

 “I think we should shut down those things right away,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Fox News Channel earlier this month.

“It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.”

For the markets’ stall holders it is an unfair stigma and one that threatens their livelihoods.

“It is a lie. It can’t be true. This is a person-to-person virus, no matter where you are. Don’t you think so? Even in the supermarket it is full of people,” shop owner Jin told Reuters.

Nevertheless, outside of Wuhan it is business as usual for many of China’s wet markets, where shoppers appear unperturbed by health fears.

“When it (the epidemic) began, I was worried about my mother going to the market with the seafood and meat. But I think it is OK now after so long,” Yi, a teacher in Beijing told AFP.

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