HONG KONG (REUTERS) – Dozens of pet shops that sold hamsters in Hong Kong could resume operations from Sunday, the Hong Kong government said, after being closed last week and thousands slaughtered over coronavirus fears .
Authorities have enraged animal lovers with an order to cull more than 2,200 hamsters after tracing an outbreak to a worker at a store where 11 hamsters tested positive.
Hamsters imported from Holland into Chinese territory were cited as the source.
All imports of hamsters remain prohibited.
The city’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation said in a statement on Saturday that it had collected 1,134 samples from animals other than hamsters, including rabbits and chinchillas, all of which tested negative. .
Five stores, including the Little Boss pet store, which sparked the outbreak, remained closed because they had not yet “passed the test for the virus”, the government said.
“In contrast, all other relevant pet stores have been thoroughly disinfected and cleaned and the environmental swabs collected from these stores have all passed the Covid-19 virus test,” he said.
The government announced on Friday that it would compensate pet shops selling hamsters, offering a one-time payment of up to HK$30,000 (S$5,200).
People who had bought hamsters – popular pets in the congested city – in recent weeks were ordered to hand them over for testing and what the government described as a “humane expedition”.
Thousands of people have offered to adopt unwanted hamsters amid a public outcry against the government and its pandemic advisers, which authorities have called irrational.
A study published in the medical journal The Lancet, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, said researchers in Hong Kong have found evidence that pet hamsters can spread Covid-19 and have linked the animals to human infections in the city.
However, the economic and psychological consequences of Hong Kong’s drastic approach to fighting the virus are growing rapidly, residents say, with the measures becoming more drastic than those first applied in 2020.