It is believed, but not proven, that the novel coronavirus originated in a live-animal market in Wuhan, China

By Aurelie Corinthios
April 13, 2020 01:22 PM
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Actor And Comedian Ricky Gervais Interviewed For SiriusXM's Town Hall Series With Hosts Jim Norton & Sam Roberts
Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty

As the threat of the coronavirus grows, Ricky Gervais is demanding an immediate end to wet markets, urging politicians around the world to introduce a global ban.

Wet markets, which sell live and dead animals for human consumption, are an essential part of everyday life in China and elsewhere in Asia. But their operation is now at the center of an intensifying worldwide debate, given that it is widely believed, but not proven, that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) originated in late 2019 in a live-animal market in Wuhan, China. According to the Washington Post, the Hunan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city, which has been shut down, was linked to an early large cluster of coronavirus cases.

In an interview with The Mirror, Gervais, 58, reacted to photos of bats, reptiles and dogs reportedly being sold at a market in Indonesia.

“For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now,” he said. “We can’t carry on exploiting animals, eating wildlife and trashing the planet. The wildlife trade and markets have to close, otherwise it will be a case of when, and not if, we have another global pandemic.”

“How bad does this have to get before you close down Indonesia’s extreme animal markets that pose the exact same risk as the wildlife wet markets in Wuhan, China?” he continued.

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Paul O’Grady, another English comedian, echoed Gervais’ sentiments.

“I was horrified. There were dogs on hooks that have been skinned, cages of live kittens. The cruelty is unbelievable,” O’Grady, 64, told The Mirror of a wet market he reportedly witnessed in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Philippa Forrester, a British TV and radio presenter, also spoke out against the markets.

“We’re asking impoverished people to make a huge cultural and economic shift,” Forrester, 51, told the publication. “It isn’t easy for a man who has sold dogs to feed his family to just give up his income, however abhorrent we feel it is, so the support needs to come from the top.”

U.S. officials are also calling for a shutdown of the markets, saying they are potential breeding grounds for disease.

“[They] should shut down those things right away,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Fox & Friends earlier this month. “It just boggles my mind that how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface that we don’t just shut it down.”

“I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that,” he continued. “I think there are certain countries in which this is very commonplace. I would like to see the rest of the world really lean with a lot of pressure on those countries that have that, because what we’re going through right now is a direct result of that.”

As of Monday, the coronavirus has infected more than 1.8 million people worldwide, according to a New York Times database. The U.S. has over 550,000 confirmed cases, and more than 22,000 people in the country have died from coronavirus-related illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.