A city in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province known for exotic animals has stopped sales over Coronavirus (COVID-19) fears, a health official said on Friday.
Tomohon is known for its market that sells meat and live animals including rat, snake, bat and monkey for consumption.
“We have notified traders to temporarily stop the sale of bats, snakes and anything that is considered extreme,” Tomohon Health Chief Isye Liuw said.
“We are also tightening monitoring to watch for trucks carrying such animals into Tomohon. They come from other areas in Sulawesi,’’
she said. Liuw said she had set up a team to spread the message about the ban. “We told people about the danger of coronaviruses and they are fearful,” she said.
The move comes after the country’s Trade Ministry on Thursday introduced a ban on cattle and poultry imports from China. It had already banned imports of exotic animals from China.
The earliest cases of COVID-19 were linked to a food market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan which reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption.
Indonesia has not recorded any infections of the new coronavirus so far. But a team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the U.S. said in a study last week that a lack of confirmed cases in countries that usually operate direct flights to and from Wuhan, such as Indonesia, “may suggest the potential for undetected cases.”
These countries should “rapidly strengthen outbreak surveillance and control capacity” to ensure potential cases are detected.
Indonesian Health Minister Terawan Putranto reacted angrily to what he saw as suggestions that Indonesia had not done enough monitoring or was incapable of identifying cases.
“That’s insulting. The kits we are using are from the U.S.,” Terawan said on Tuesday.
Indonesian officials said on Thursday they were investigating information that a Chinese tourist had tested positive of the virus after travelling to the resort island of Bali.
The man from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, tested positive on Feb. 5, a week after returning to China, according to Chinese authorities.
“We will be tracing his movements, what he did and where he went in Bali,” Indonesia’s presidential chief of staff, Moeldoko, said on Thursday.
The Indonesian Health Ministry said the man was likely to have been infected in China after returning. “We suspect that he was infected after he arrived at the airport in Shanghai,” said Achmad Yurianto, secretary-general of the ministry’s directorate for disease control.
Indonesia is home to some 260 million people and has stopped flights to and from China since the outbreak of the virus.
The new coronavirus has infected tens of thousands in China and killed more than 1,300 there, as well as spreading to around two dozen countries.