Owners were told not to kiss the hamsters or set them loose.
Not too long ago, Denmark was culling minks after a COVID-19 variant was found among a population of the furry animals, and now Hong Kong is finding itself in the same boat.
The Hong Kong government has ordered thousands of hamsters to be culled after 11 tested positive for "traces" of COVID at one local pet shop.
The city has since asked pet shops and hamster owners to turn in their hamsters — over 2,000 of them — to be culled by local authorities, reported The Washington Post.
Dr. Leung Siu-fai, the director of agriculture, fisheries and conservation, is urging “pet owners to observe strict hygiene when handling their pets and cages,” and is asking them “not kiss or abandon them on the streets.”
The hamsters also seemingly transmitted the virus to two of the pet store's employees, including one who handles the animals and cleans out the cages, reported The Guardian.
The infected hamsters were imported from the Netherlands and arrived in batches on December 22 and January 7.
All hamsters purchased around the time right before Christmas have to be handed over, and all future imports of the little furry creatures are being suspended for the time being.
Health officials say that the culling is being done to “cut the transmission chain.”
“Evidence shows that the hamsters are infected with the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Leung.
“It is impossible to quarantine them and observe each of them, and their incubation period could be long.”
However, Hong Kong’s health secretary, Sophia Chan, has a very different opinion on the decision, citing a lack of evidence suggesting that the virus can be transmitted from domestic animals to humans.
Dr. Leung says the move is being made out of an abundance of caution.
“We have assessed the risks of these batches are relatively high and therefore made the decision based on public health needs,” he said.
Local pet shops are currently waiting to be contacted by authorities for instructions on what to do with their hamsters.
This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.