Hamster iStock

Authorities in Hong Kong are to cull around 2,000 small animals such as hamsters after several hamsters tested positive for COVID-19 at a pet store.

The discovery was made after one of the store’s workers tested positive for coronavirus; the infected animals were imported from the Netherlands and now all imports of small animals to Hong Kong have been banned until further notice.

“We cannot exclude the possibility that the shopkeeper was actually infected from the hamsters,” said Edwin Tsui, a controller at the Centre for Health Protection.

“If you own a hamster, you should keep your hamsters at home; don’t take them out," department director Leung Siu-fai said at a press conference. “Pet owners should observe good personal hygiene, and after you have been in contact with animals and their food, you should wash your hands."

“Do not kiss your pets,” he added.

Customers who purchased hamsters from the affected store in the last two weeks are required to enter quarantine. They will be traced by the government, which will confiscate their pets and kill them. Other pet stores have been told to stop selling hamsters, and all their customers from the past month are now required to be tested for COVID and warned not to contact others until they receive a negative test result.