‘I understand that pet owners are unhappy’: Carrie Lam defends Hong Kong hamster cull

Authorities decided to kill nearly 2000 hamsters after 11 tested positive for the coronavirus

<p>File:  Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference</p>

File: Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam warned that Covid-19 infection could spike due to an outbreak in pet hamsters while defending the government's decision to cull thousands of small animals.

The top leader on Saturday said that cases involving the Delta variant of coronavirus were also rising due to the hamster outbreak.

"I understand that pet owners are unhappy ... the biggest public interest is to control the pandemic," Ms Lam said.

Last week, Hong Kong authorities announced a drive to cull nearly 2,000 hamsters after 11 tested positive for coronavirus at a pet shop. An employee at the shop was infected with the Delta variant of the virus.

Following the outbreak, all pet shops selling hamsters in the city were ordered to shut down for further testing and cleaning.

Even though the city’s health secretary Sophia Chan stressed that there was no evidence of animal to human transmission, authorities have banned the sale and import of all small mammals as an act of precaution under China’s “zero Covid” policy to eliminate the disease.

Those who had purchased hamsters after 22 December were asked to hand them over to authorities to be put down "humanely".

Health workers in hazmat suits were seen walking out of pet shops carrying red plastic bags into their vans.

Amid fears of mass abandonment of pets, thousands of people in Hong Kong volunteered last Wednesday to adopt unwanted hamsters.

Meanwhile, Ms Lam urged people to avoid gatherings ahead of Lunar New Year due to rising cases of highly-infectious Omicron variant in Kwai Chung, a highly populated, north of the city’s Kowloon peninsula.

"We are worried that the exponential growth of cases that we have seen in other parts of the world is now happening in Kwai Chung," she said.

Ms Lam along with two other government officials were reportedly heckled during their visit to a public housing estate in Kwai Chung on Sunday. Two of the estate’s 16 residential buildings were placed under a five-day lockdown, where residents are prohibited from leaving their houses and are subjected to regular Covid-19 tests.

As the officials made their way through the area, residents were heard shouting from their flats, “go back, this estate is very dangerous,” “when will you die,” and “you go into a five-day lockdown", Hong Kong Free Press reported.

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