HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong authorities said on Tuesday they would kill about 2,000 small animals, including hamsters, after several of the rodents were tested positive for the virus at a pet store where an infected employee worked.
The city will also stop the sale of hamsters and the import of small mammals, according to officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation. The move came after the pet dealer’s employee tested positive for the delta variant on Monday. Several hamsters imported from the Netherlands in the same store also tested positive.
“If you own a hamster, you should keep your hamsters at home, do not take them out,” department director Leung Siu-fai said at a news conference.
“All pet owners should adhere to good personal hygiene, and after you have been in contact with animals and their food, you should wash your hands.”
“Do not kiss your pets,” he added.
Although authorities acknowledged that there is “no evidence” that pets can transmit coronavirus to humans, customers who had purchased hamsters from the affected store after January 7, as a precautionary measure, will be tracked and subject to mandatory quarantine.
They also have to hand over their hamsters to the authorities to be beaten down.
Authorities said all pet stores selling hamsters in Hong Kong must stop operating and that about 2,000 small mammals, including hamsters and chinchillas, will be wiped out in a humane way.
Customers who bought hamsters in Hong Kong from December 22 will also be subject to mandatory tests and are encouraged not to enter the community until their test has turned negative. If their hamsters test positive, they will be quarantined.
So far, authorities said they would not rule out human-to-animal transmission.
Separately, Hong Kong police have arrested two former stewardesses for allegedly leaving their homes as they should have been in isolation for possible coronavirus infections, which was later confirmed.
The two arrived from the United States on December 24 and 25. While under medical supervision, they had “performed unnecessary activities”, according to a government statement released late Monday.
Although the statement did not name their employer, the arrests came after flagship shipping company Cathay Pacific said it had fired two crew members for breach of coronavirus protocols. Both later tested positive for the omicron variant.
Cathay said earlier that the actions of the crew, who had broken coronavirus protocols, were “extremely disappointing” and apologized for the disruption. The company had to cut back on flights – both passengers and cargo – in January amid tightened virus edges.
The duo have been released on bail and will have their case heard in court on February 9. If convicted of violating anti-epidemic laws, they could face up to 6 months in prison and a fine of up to $ 5,000 ($ 642).
Hong Kong has struggled with a local omicron outbreak traced to several Cathay Pacific crew members who had eaten at bars and restaurants throughout the city before later testing positive for the omicron variant.
Earlier in Hong Kong, some air and sea crew members were able to isolate themselves at home during certain quarantine exemptions. The rules tightened on December 31 require crew members to isolate themselves at a designated quarantine hotel for about a week to protect public health.
This story has been directed to say that 2,000 small animals will be killed, including hamsters. An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that 2,000 hamsters will be killed.