MOSCOW (Reuters) – Authorities in Moscow are rounding up stray animals and exterminating rats as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, actions animal rights activists have called cruel and scientifically unfounded.
Russia has imposed a series of measures to prevent the virus from taking hold in Russia, ranging from restrictions on flights to China and South Korea to visa restrictions for Iranian and Chinese citizens.
“We are currently carrying out a large-scale complex (of measures) for the total rat extermination of the city, by capturing wild animals, stray animals,” said Elena Andreeva, Moscow head of consumer health surveillance Rospotrepnadzor, cited by the RIA. Press Agency.
She did not explain the reasoning for the movements but said they were part of the measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Hundreds of people have been quarantined across Russia, and authorities in Moscow have raided potential carriers of the virus and used facial recognition technology to enforce quarantine measures.
Barking News, a Russian outlet that covers animal news, decried the action against stray dogs and cats as “stupid, unscientific and just plain cruel.”
He quoted a Moscow-based virologist Nikolai Nikitin as saying there was no evidence that stray dogs and cats could contract the new coronavirus or subsequently pass it on to people.
Moscow once had a large population of stray dogs and cats, but they have become a rare sight in central Moscow, although packs of stray dogs are sometimes seen outside the center. Stray cats are more common.
Three Russian nationals are being treated in Russia after contracting the coronavirus on a cruise ship in Japan and were later repatriated, authorities said.
Prior to that, two Chinese nationals had been hospitalized in Russia with the virus, but they have since recovered and have been released.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth; edited by Timothy Heritage