China on Monday declared an immediate and “comprehensive” ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice believed responsible for the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The country’s top legislative committee approved a proposal “prohibiting the illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protecting the lives and health of the people,” state television reported.
Previous temporary bans have been put in place, including after the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 and was also traced to wild animal consumption.
That prohibition was short-lived, however, and conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a cruel trade in wild animals as exotic menu items or for use in traditional medicines whose efficacy is not confirmed by science.
The decision was made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), which oversees the country's rubber-stamp legislature.
The coronavirus epidemic had highlighted "the prominent problem of excessive consumption of wild animals, and the huge hidden dangers to public health and safety," said the report by China Central Television (CCTV).
Chinese health officials have said the virus likely emerged from a market in the central city of Wuhan that sold wild animals as food.
The coronavirus has killed 2,592 people in China, infected some 77,000 others and paralysed the country's economy.
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