BEIJING, China, February 24, 2020 (ENS) – China’s top legislative committee Monday approved a proposal to ban all trade and consumption of wild animals, a practice believed to be responsible for China’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, thought to have originated in a Wuhan market where wild animals were sold for food.

Authorities closed the market on January 1, 2020, for sanitary procedures and disinfection after 33 out of 585 animal specimens taken from the market in the city of Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, showed evidence of the virus, formally known as novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

eating bat

Two young women make a meal of a bat, Wuhan, China, 2019 (Screengrab from video courtesy YouTube. Videographer unknown)

Photos taken before the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan was closed show a price list of 112 exotic animals. According to the “South China Morning Post,” the list included live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, and koalas.

Beijing has yet to revise its wild animal protection law to safeguard people’s lives and health, but today’s passage of the proposal by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress is considered essential and urgent in helping the country win its war against the epidemic, wrote the official state newspaper “People’s Daily.”

Experts believe that the new coronavirus has been passed onto humans by wildlife sold as food, particularly bats and snakes.

Chinese lawmakers on Monday started deliberating a draft decision on thoroughly banning illegal wildlife trade and eliminating the bad habits of eating wild animals.

The draft decision aims to completely ban the eating of wild animals and crack down on illegal wildlife trade before relevant laws are amended “so as to provide a strong legislative guarantee for safeguarding public health and ecological security,” the newspaper states.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday pledged “unremitting efforts” in the prevention and control of the epidemic and coordination in advancing economic and social development. The epidemic situation remains “grim and complex,” said Xi, adding that now is a crucial moment in efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses a meeting on control of the deadly novel coronavirus COVID-19. Beijing, China, Feb. 23, 2020 (Photo courtesy Xinhua)

Looking pale and weary, Xi made these remarks at a meeting in Beijing to advance the work of coordinating the prevention and control of the COVID-19.

The COVID-19 outbreak is a major public health emergency that has spread at the fastest speed, caused the most extensive infection and is the most difficult to contain in the country since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, said Xi.

“This is both a crisis and a big test for us,” he said.

Xi said the COVID-19 epidemic will inevitably deal a relatively big blow to China’s economic and social development. However, he tried to assure the Chinese people that the impact of the epidemic on China’s economic and social development is “temporary and generally manageable.”

As Xi spoke, the World Health Organization, WHO, confirmed that globally there have been 78,811 cases of COVID-19 since the disease erupted in the city of Wuhan. Of those, 1,017 are new in the 24 hours ending at midnight Sunday.

In China, there have been 77,042 confirmed cases, of which 650 are new. There have been 2,445 deaths, of which 97 are new.

The number of countries reporting confirmed cases of COVID-19 with transmission occurring outside China is now 19 – Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, the United States, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, and Canada.

Outside of China, there have been 1,769 confirmed cases, 367 of them new, in 28 countries. Seventeen people have died from the virus outside of China; six of those deaths were newly reported in the past 24 hours.

There has also been local transmission on the cruise ship Diamond Princess quarantined in Hokkaido, Japan. The coronavirus was first identified in a quarantine officer, but continued transmission of the virus has most likely been occurring on the ship, according to authorities with the World Health Organization.

WHO Reports Phishing Scams Linked to COVID-19

The World Health Organization is warning everyone to beware of criminals pretending to be WHO personnel, using email, websites, phone calls, text messages, and even fax messages for their scams.

“Criminals are disguising themselves as WHO to steal money or sensitive information,” WHO officials said today, advising, “If you are contacted by a person or organization that appears to be from WHO, verify their authenticity before responding.”

WHO is aware of suspicious email messages attempting to take advantage of the 2019 novel coronavirus emergency.

These “Phishing” emails appear to be from WHO, and will ask you to give sensitive information, such as usernames or passwords; click a malicious link; or open a malicious attachment.

Using this method, criminals can install malware or steal sensitive information.

WHO advises that people verify the sender by checking the sender’s email address. Make sure the sender has an email address such as ‘person@who.int’ If there is anything other than ‘who.int’ after the ‘@’ symbol, this sender is not from WHO.

WHO does not send email from addresses ending in @who.com, @who.org or @who-safety.org for example.

Check the link before you click. Make sure the link starts with https://www.who.int. Better still, navigate to the WHO website directly, by typing https://www.who.int into your browser.

The World Health Organization will:

* – never ask you to login to view safety information
* – never email attachments you didn’t ask for
* – never ask you to visit a link outside of www.who.int
* – never charge money to apply for a job, register for a conference, or reserve a hotel
* – never conduct lotteries or offer prizes, grants, certificates or funding through email
* – never ask you to donate directly to emergency response plans or funding appeals.

If you gave sensitive information, don’t panic, WHO advises. “If you believe you have given data such as your username or passwords to cybercriminals, immediately change your credentials on each site where you have used them.”

If you see a scam, report it to WHO at: https://www.who.int/about/report_scam/en/.

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