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Scott Morrison made the comment just days after a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers urged WHO to shut down all wet markets globally. The markets recently began opening their doors again in Chinese cities like Wuhan, which have lifted their coronavirus lockdowns.
“I think that’s unfathomable, frankly. We need to protect the world against potential sources of outbreaks of these types of viruses,” Morrison told the Nine Network television station. “It’s happened too many times. I’m totally puzzled by this decision.”
“We don’t have them here in Australia, and I’m just puzzled by that decision,” he added.
WHO had said in a statement that “wet markets and other food markets do not need to be closed down,” but noted they should be prohibited from selling illegal wildlife for food and authorities should enforce food safety and hygiene regulations, according to The Associated Press.
“COVID-19 has reminded us of the need to ensure that our food markets are well managed and regulated and provide an environment where people can safely trade and buy safe food products being it live, raw or processed,” the statement added.
Morrison wasn’t the only Australian official though to take a swipe at WHO on Tuesday.
“There is a very real likelihood that this disease arose from a wet market in Wuhan — it’s clear that these are dangerous vectors,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I would imagine that around the world, the vast majority of people would have a similar view.”
Last week, Sens. Cory Booker, Lindsey Graham and more than 60 congressional lawmakers called on the WHO to ban and permanently close all wet markets globally amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter, the group urged officials to take “aggressive action toward a global shutdown of live wildlife markets and a ban on the international trade of live wildlife that is not intended for conservation purposes.”
“Live wildlife markets, known as ‘wet’ markets, were linked to the 2003 SARS outbreak and are believed to be the source of the current COVID-19,” Booker and Graham wrote. “As this pandemic continues to threaten the lives of millions, pushes healthcare systems to the breaking point, and devastates economies around the world, it is imperative that we all take action as a global community to protect public health.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.