Government officials in Hong Kong are to cull all hamsters being sold in pet shops in the territory after a number of animals have tested positive for Covid-19.
Several hamsters at the Little Boss pet shop in Causeway Bay have tested positive for the virus – the first time such a finding has been recorded in the world, according to a report in the The Standard.
An estimated 2,000 hamsters will be killed, including those at 34 local pet shops and at a main storage facility, while the government is also calling upon citizens to surrender any hamsters they have bought since October 22.
Rabbits and chinchillas at the pet shop and the store’s storage facility will also be killed, although none have yet tested positive.
According to the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong, the daughter of a person infected with the virus bought a hamster at the store on January 4, and returned on January 8 for additional purchases. A staff member at the store has also since been diagnosed with Covid.
Health officers tested 78 samples hamsters, chinchillas and rabbits inside the shop, and 11 hamsters tested positive. They also took 511 samples at the storage facility and found traces of the virus. Authorities have yet to confirm whether hamsters can infect humans.
The two batches of hamsters in question were imported from the Netherlands on October 22 and January 7, according to local officials, who urged any customers who purchased hamsters in Hong Kong since October 22 to hand them over to health authorities.
The owners of the pets will be subjected to mandatory Covid testing, while all customers who have visited the Little Boss shop since January 7 will be quarantined, along with 30 workers at the warehouse.