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Why China’s wildlife trade ban will help, but not stop, coronavirus


China’s decision to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals is the country’s latest bid to win the coronavirus fight.

It’s a welcome development, but one experts say faces significant hurdles.

“The concern is enforcement. How effective will government enforcement be?” said Yanzhong Huang, a public health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of global health studies at Seton Hall University.

“But there’s a way of thinking in China. The norm is that those live animals are more delicious, that they’re better for you. That’s very much entrenched in China.

“So you also have to replace a way of thinking.”

The new virus sweeping the world is believed to have started in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, where, like many other markets in Asia, bats, snakes, civets and other animals are tied up or stacked in cages. Many are killed on site to ensure freshness, which is highly valued in Chinese culture and cuisine.

The markets are considered breeding grounds for new and dangerous infections, health experts say, because the close contact between humans and live exotic animals makes it easier for viruses to jump between species.

It’s believed SARS originated from the same type of market in 2002.

Now, as COVID-19 spreads throughout China and widely across borders, there has been a renewed focus on the practice.

With two epidemics tied to these markets, it’s likely China is far more serious about enforcing the ban this time around, said Lynette Ong, a political science professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in China.

However, a ban isn’t a foolproof tactic, she said.

“The government does have the capacity to really implement this policy, but having said that, it’s sort of like illicit drugs — the more you ban, the more you encourage the development of the black market. That’s just the way economics works,” she told Global News.

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