Doctors have applauded legislation extending a moratorium on live poultry markets and slaughterhouses in New York City.
Earlier this week, Govenor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation which prohibits the city from issuing new licenses to operate such facilities within 1,500 feet of residential buildings for the next four years.
The new rules follow the emergence of COVID-19, which is widely understood to have originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China towards the end of 2019.
Since then, the virus has spread around the world, killing more than 760,000 people at the time of writing.
COVID-19 and other viruses have spread and passed to humans through animals sold in live animal markets. These include SARS, which originated in horseshoe bats, passing through civets sold for meat to humans, including the 918 H1N1 flu pandemic - which killed millions of people.
'An important step'
Doctors from the nonprofit organization - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) - have therefore described the move as 'an important step forward that will help protect the health of New Yorkers'.
But the group wants to see the legislation go further, saying that New York City has 'the greatest number of live bird markets, compared with other U.S. cities'. It adds that 'inspection reports from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets show ongoing health, safety, and welfare problems in New York's live animal markets'.
According to PCRM: "This spring, N.Y. Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), introduced legislation backed by the Physicians Committee that would eliminate live animal markets entirely in the state of New York, effectively suspending current live markets' operations and preventing further licenses for such markets from being issued."
Assembly Member Rosenthal adds: "COVID-19 has ravaged New York and changed life for millions of New Yorkers. As policymakers, we have a responsibility to respond to this crisis by doing everything in our power to prevent the next pandemic.
"Closing New York's live animal markets, which operate in residential neighborhoods and do not adhere to even the most basic sanitary standards, until we determine whether they can be made safe, is a vital first step."