WHO’s COVID-19 envoy says it urges shutdown of wet markets

The Australian on Tuesday reported the WHO had backed the reopening of China’s wet markets, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to warn he was not yet satisfied the markets could be made safe.


Dr Nabarro said on Monday the WHO “pleads with governments and just about everybody” to understand how the live animal trade can cause outbreaks of viruses.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Dr Nabarro said the WHO was not able to tell governments what to do but its advice was clear about the dangers of wet markets.

Asked whether the WHO’s advice to China behind the scenes was to close the wet markets, Dr Nabarro said: “Yes, and it’s the advice everywhere, because it’s dangerous.”

“You know how WHO and other parts of the international system work – we don’t have the capacity to police the world,” he said.

“Instead, what we have to do is offer advice and guidance, and there’s very clear advice from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the WHO … that says really there are real dangers in these kinds of environments.

“Seventy-five per cent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom … It’s partly the markets, but it’s also other places where humans and animals are in close contact. Just make absolutely certain that you’re not creating opportunities for viral spread.”

Dr Nabarro’s comments come after 200 conservation groups across the world signed an open letter calling on the WHO to force the closure of markets selling wild meat.

Wet markets are marketplaces that sell fresh produce including fruit and vegetables, seafood, meat and domestic and wild animals. The animals are often slaughtered upon purchase.

China last month issued a ban on the sale and consumption of wild animals in the country but is still encouraging the sale of the meat overseas.

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