Mitt Romney Joins Lindsey Graham in Bipartisan Call for China to Close All Wet Markets Over Coronavirus Link

Mitt Romney (R-UT) has joined a bipartisan group of senators calling on Chinese officials to close all wet markets in the country over their suspected links to the coronavirus outbreak.

The group, led by Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Coons (D-DE) made its plea on Thursday in a letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai.

Wet markets are known for selling live animals such as cats, dogs, fish, rabbits and bats. Wet markets are named to distinguish them from dry markets selling packages and non-perishable goods, such as textiles.

Chinese scientists believe the new form of coronavirus originated at Wuhan's Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. The virus is understood to have emerged through a zoonotic spillover, in which the virus jumped from an animal to a human.

"We write to urgently request that China immediately close all operating wet markets that have a potential to expose humans to health risks through the introduction of zoonotic disease into the human population," the senators wrote.

"Gao Fu, the director of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has acknowledged that "the origin of the new coronavirus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan (China) seafood market.

"It is well documented that wet markets in China have been the source of a number of worldwide health problems, and their operation should cease immediately so as to protect the Chinese people and the international community from additional health risks.

"Therefore we are urging China to shut down all wet markets that allow for interactions between humans and wild animals that pose public health risks," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

"We understand and respect that wet markets are an important component to Chinese society and way of life, but we believe the current moment, which has disrupted everyday life around the world, calls for extreme precautions."

The other signatories of the letter were: Kevin Cramer (R-ND); Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Thom Tillis (R-NC); Martha McSally (R-AZ); Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS); Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); John Hoeven (R-ND); and Rick Scott (R-FL).

wet market China
Wuhan market
wet market China
Wet markets in China.

Wet markets, where animals are sold in the open, are common in China. The 2003 SARS outbreak is also believed to be linked to a wet market.

The United Nations' acting head of biodiversity and the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert are among numerous officials who have since called for wet markets and the wild animal trade to cease.

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert, told Fox & Friends that the COVID-19 crisis was a "direct result" of unsanitary marketplaces.

"It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don't just shut it down. I don't know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that," he said.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, told The Guardian in a recent interview that "the message we are getting is if we don't take care of nature, it will take care of us."

Mrema added that a ban on wet markets would not fully resolve the issue because many communities rely on wild animals.

"It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done and some countries," she said. "But we should also remember you have communities, particularly from low-income rural areas, particularly in Africa, which are dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people."

In February, China placed a temporary ban on all farming and consumption of "terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value." This is expected to be signed into law later this year.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 around the world as of April 9.

coronavirus, map, covid-19, countries, world
A graphic provided by Statista shows the global spread of the new coronavirus as of early April 9. More than 1.5 million people have been afflicted, over 346,000 of whom have recovered and over 93,000 of whom have died. Statista

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