The Chinese city of Wuhan has banned the eating of wild animals, a practice believed to have caused the coronavirus pandemic.
The new policy went into effect on May 13 and will stay in place for five years, according to a notice released by the Wuhan government today.
Experts in China said in January that the virus had likely jumped onto humans from wild animals sold as food at a wet market in the city of 11million.
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the market believed to have spawned the global outbreak, was shut on January 1 in the wake of the health crisis.
Apart from seafood, the market’s offerings included live wild animals, such as foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, according to a previous report .
In China alone, the virus has claimed 4,634 lives and infected 82,965 people, according to official figures.
Globally, at least 325,000 people have died and nearly five million have contracted the killer infection.
The Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital city, in March passed a law to ban the eating of wild animals completely, including those bred or raised by people.
In February, China‘s central government blocked all trade and consumption of wildlife with a temporarily law, but it did not specify if farm-raised ones would be covered.
China’s overall wildlife trade is worth around 520billion yuan (£57billion), according to a government report from 2017.
It comes after provinces across China have promised buyout schemes or other financial aid to help wildlife breeders turn to other trades.
It prohibits the hunting of wild animals across Wuhan, which covers an area of 8,494 square kilometres (3,280 square miles) or roughly five times of Greater London.
Staff at scientific and medical organisations must obtain special hunting licences for research purposes.
Artificial breeding of land-based wild animals and nationally protected wild aquatic species for human consumption is not allowed, the document says.
The decree also cracks down on the wildlife trade.
No organisations or individuals are allowed to produce, process, use or conduct commercial operations with wildlife or wildlife products which are banned by the document, officials say.
Any related breeding, transporting, trading, carrying or mailing is illegal.
Citizens are forbidden from encouraging or persuading others to eat or conduct illegal trading of wild animals. Such activities include releasing advertisements, installing relevant signboards and publishing recipes.
Scientific and medical teams must undergo strict applications and quarantine inspections should they need to use wild animals for non-food-related work purposes.
In a new, city-specific move, officials say they will use the national social credit system to punish any violators of the rules.
Offending individuals and companies will see their behaviour recorded into the country-wide surveillance scheme and receive penalties accordingly.
Authorities will also increase their inspections into markets, hotels, restaurants, e-commerce platforms and food-processing businesses to prevent the trading of exotic species.
China’s top legislative committee passed new legislation to ban all trade and consumption of wild animals on February 24 after the country was rocked by the deadly disease.
Beijing is yet to revise its wild animal protection law, but the temporarily ban was ‘essential’ and ‘urgent’ in helping the country win its war against the epidemic, wrote state newspaper People’s Daily.
The exact source of the new coronavirus remains unconfirmed. Experts speculate that it originated in bats, snakes, pangolins, or some other animal.
Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention linked the Huanan market to the virus in late January. They believed that humans had caught the virus from animals there, reported Xinhua News Agency.
Civets, a cat-like creature thought to have caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, were among dozens of species listed as for sale by one of the merchants at the Wuhan market according to a price list that circulated on China’s internet.