CHINA: Here’s one more issue to be added to the loads of tension which China brought on the Coronavirus pandemic. China has announced the reopening of its wet markets, after its association is found with COVID-19’s early spread in Wuhan.

It’s comprehensible that countries now in the grip of infection might be outraged. Many blame the wet market for pioneering the pandemic at first. When most of the world is still struggling to overcome this disease, reopening these markets shows the aggressive approach of China to world affairs.

These places where a variety of common and exotic animals mix together while their bodily fluids become required breeding grounds for many dangerous novel diseases that spread without species barriers to humans and thus becoming pandemics.

Let’s pause this outrage for a moment. Wet markets are now losing ground to supermarkets as many of the consumers now thinking that the product purchased from supermarket are more healthier and feasible alternate than those raw market ones.

The wet market is not so different from the farmers’ market in the Western parts of the world. In contrast to the multi-layered supermarket model where between the producer and the consumer there are many retailers, wholesalers and logistics companies, wet markets offer direct connection between the purchaser, stallholder and producer.

In such markets, consumers have the freedom of cross-checking the product hand in hand and if they think that one stallholder is unhygienic, then they have the choice to purchase from other stalls. These give them the opportunity to ask the stallholder what’s in season and which is best in the moment.

According to Euromonitor international, supermarkets now hold for about half of the total grocery spendings in China, increasing from about 36% in 1995. And as now called the modern grocery it has about 68% of China’s retail spendings, giving wet markets less than a third.

One of the study in 2015 for the World Health Organisation compared the life expectancy per 100,000 people due to food-borne sickness, disability, and death. Besides America and some rich countries of the Pacific Rim, the region of the wet markets of China and South Korea has the best records out of most of the Southeast Asian countries for
microbial infections.

What about COVID-19 itself? Strong evidences are found that the virus has genetic traces from some pathogens found in pangolins. But only a smallminority of wet markets sell such exotica, so you can close the trade of wild species even without closing the entire wet market. As we have already written that even some wild species such as pandolins are also farmed in China these days which gives far more conduciveness to cooking noval diseases.

To the extent it can be said that Asia’s wet market is a health problem, and it can be easily improved by taking different safety measures taken in many countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea such as separating meat, vegetable and livestock areas, plus the sort of mandated cleaning regulations.

There’s plenty to criticize about China’s downplay and irresponsible behavior even after the initial outbreak of the worldwide pandemic. But closing all wet markets, though, isn’t the solution.

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