Via the South China Morning Post, an op-ed: It's time for Guangdong to take bird flu seriously | South China Morning Post. After describing the recent H5N6 case in Guangzhou, columnist Mimi Lau writes:
The city governments of Guangzhou and Shenzhen introduced a scheme in May that banned live poultry. But the scheme has been criticised for its fragmented implementation.
In Guangzhou, it covered just a third of all wet markets, with vendors required to sell only centrally slaughtered chickens from designated suppliers. It was to be extended across the city in October, but that never happened.
Locals have largely ignored the ban, with many buying their freshly slaughtered poultry elsewhere.
"Underground" markets have also emerged, with vendors keeping live chickens in stacked cages in vans parked along alleys near the wet markets.
Instead of showing interested buyers the live birds they are selling, the vendors first describe the poultry and then produce the freshly slaughtered chicken from the van after a deal is struck.
"This is a Wenchuan chicken and it costs 20 yuan (HK$25) per catty. Ordinary chickens sell for 15 yuan a catty," said one vendor at a Yuexiu district wet market, where the poultry ban is in place.
Asked if he had something better, the vendor gave a knowing smile and went on to describe in vivid detail a rare bird they had alive in a van parked nearby.
"We have a free-range chicken from rural Zhaoqing . It costs 35 yuan a catty," he said. "We don't carry that often … If you want it, I can have it ready for you in five minutes."
These vendors appear more concerned about preserving their livelihoods than about the risks of contracting the deadly bird flu virus.
"No one is buying centrally slaughtered chilled birds. We are losing thousands of yuan every day by following the government's instructions," the vendor said.
According to a traditional Guangdong saying, it isn't a banquet if a chicken isn't served. And the people of Guangdong - known for their culinary techniques that value the freshness of the ingredients used in their dishes - insist on buying freshly slaughtered poultry in keeping with tradition.
In September, the provincial government put up for public consultation a plan for an end to the sale of live poultry in nine key cities from next year. But the proposal was shot down last month after public criticism.
Over in Hong Kong, however, a ban on the sale of live poultry has proven a success, even though Hongkongers share the same spirit as Guangdong residents in the preparation of their cuisine. Perhaps the people of Hong Kong, after having lived through the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic a decade ago, know better than to flirt with infectious diseases that threaten public health.
Just how many more people have to be struck down by the deadly bird flu virus before the public and health authorities in Guangdong will begin to take the matter more seriously?
The authorities have to come up with fairer measures to extend the ban more broadly, provide poultry vendors with compensation for their losses, implement regular monitoring and penalties for lawbreakers, set up a central slaughterhouse without commercial influence, and introduce public education campaigns.