singer180_David WongSouth China Morning Post via Getty Images_chinawetmarketchickens David Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The Two Dark Sides of COVID-19

Historically, tragedies such as the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic have sometimes led to important changes. The probable source of the new coronavirus – so-called wet markets, at which live animals are sold and slaughtered before customers' eyes – should be banned not only in China, but worldwide.

PRINCETON – The apocalyptic images of the locked-down Chinese city of Wuhan have reached us all. The world is holding its breath over the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and governments are taking or preparing drastic measures that will necessarily sacrifice individual rights and freedoms for the general good.

Some focus their anger on China’s initial lack of transparency about the outbreak. The philosopher Slavoj Žižek has spoken of “the racist paranoia” at work in the obsession with COVID-19 when there are many worse infectious diseases from which thousands die every day. Those prone to conspiracy theories believe that the virus is a biological weapon aimed at China’s economy. Few mention, let alone confront, the underlying cause of the epidemic.

Both the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic and the current one can be traced to China’s “wet markets” – open-air markets where animals are bought live and then slaughtered on the spot for the customers. Until late December 2019, everyone affected by the virus had some link to Wuhan’s Huanan Market.

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