Jakarta – Responding to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, animal rights organizations have called on the Indonesian government to close all markets that slaughter or sell illegal wildlife. The virus, 2019-nCoV, is believed to have first emerged among wild animals in a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
In an open letter sent to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Dog Meat Free Indonesia, a coalition of several animal rights organizations in the country, says that zoonotic coronaviruses can originate from wild animal markets.
"We urge the Indonesian government to take strong and immediate action to mitigate the risk posed by Indonesia's animal markets," the coalition states in the letter, which was made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
It further says: "We have visited a good number of animal markets in Indonesia, where the conditions are the same as those being described by scientists as the perfect breeding grounds for new and deadly zoonotic viruses, such as coronaviruses."
The coalition argues that wild animals, many of which are protected, are sold and slaughtered in public and unsanitary conditions alongside domestic animal species, including dogs and cats, potentially exposing thousands of people every day to a variety of zoonotic diseases throughout Indonesia.
The organization points out that dog and cat meat markets in Indonesia can be a hotbed for disease transmission, especially rabies. Dog and cat meat are sold for consumption in some Indonesian markets alongside snakes, bats and rats.
"[...] given the current state of emergency in China, we urge you to please take preventative and proactive measures to make sure Indonesia is not the next point of origin of a deadly virus.
"We urge you to prioritize the health and well-being of the overwhelming majority of the Indonesian population, rather than the preferences and profitability of a few at the expense of national and global interests," the letter states.
The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is a contagious virus that causes respiratory infection. It can be transmitted from human to human.
The virus was first identified by authorities in Wuhan, Hubei, China, as the cause of the ongoing outbreak. It has spread to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, the United States, Canada, France and Germany, among other countries.
The World Health Organization, which initially downplayed the severity of a disease that has now killed 170 nationwide, warned all governments to be "on alert" as it weighed whether to declare a global health emergency, AFP reported
Chinese health authorities said there were 7,711 confirmed cases of infection as of the end of Wednesday, mostly in Hubei province where the death toll rose by 37 to 162.
As of Thursday, Indonesia had no reported cases of the virus. (gis)