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After hamsters receive COVID-19, Hong Kong will kill 2,000 animals

HONG KONG (AP), -- Authorities in Hong Kong said Tuesday that about 2,000 small animals will be killed after they tested positive for coronavirus at a pet shop where an employee was also infected.

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After hamsters receive COVID-19, Hong Kong will kill 2,000 animals

According to officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the city will also cease the sale and import of hamsters. On Monday, the employee at the pet shop tested positive for the Delta variant. Several hamsters purchased from the Netherlands also tested positive.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that animals don't seem to play a significant part in spreading coronavirus. However, Hong Kong authorities stated that they cannot rule out the possibility of transmission between humans and animals.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the shopkeeper was actually infected by the hamsters," Edwin Tsui said, a controller at Centre for Health Protection.

Leung Siufai, department director, stated that hamster owners should keep their pets at home. All pet owners must practice good hygiene and wash their hands after coming in contact with animals or their food.

He added, "Do not kiss your pets."

Officials stated that customers who bought hamsters at the store after Jan. 7, will be traced back and subject to mandatory quarantine. They must also surrender their hamsters for them to be put to rest.

They stated that all Hong Kong pet shops must cease selling hamsters. Around 2,000 small mammals including chinchillas will also be killed humanely.

Customers who purchased hamsters in Hong Kong starting Dec. 22nd will have to undergo mandatory testing. They are advised not to contact anyone until the results of their tests are back. They will be quarantined if their hamsters are positive.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Hong Kong stated that it was shocked and concerned by the government's decision to kill the animals and asked for the government to reconsider its approach.

Hong Kong is currently dealing with an omicron epidemic. It was caused by several Cathay Pacific crew members, who ate at restaurants and bars throughout the city before they tested positive for the omicron variant.

Two former flight attendants were arrested late Monday by the government for leaving their homes while they were in quarantine. They later became infected with coronavirus. Although it did not name their employer, the government said that the two men arrived in the U.S. Dec. 24-25 and performed "unnecessary activities" while they were under medical surveillance.

Cathay Pacific had previously fired two employees for violating coronavirus protocols. The arrests were made after Cathay Pacific announced the firings. Cathay Pacific previously apologized for the actions and called them "extremely disappointed." In January, tightened virus restrictions forced the company to reduce passenger and cargo flights.

They were released on bail, and their case will be heard in court on February 9. They could be sentenced to up to six months imprisonment for violating anti-epidemic regulations and a fine up to 5,000 Hong Kong Dollars ($642).

Some air and sea crew members were able to isolate at home in Hong Kong before quarantine exemptions. Dec. 31 regulations were tightened to require crew members that they isolate in a quarantine hotel for approximately a week.

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