I n the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when little was known about the new virus, the UK government briefly considered asking the public to exterminate all cats for fear that pets could spread the disease.
Lord Bethell, the former deputy health minister from 2020 to 2021, revealed the news on Wednesday during an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News
“Can you imagine what would have happened if we had wanted to do that?” she added.
The UK has some 10.9 million cats, according to the PDSA Animal Welfare 2022 report.
The revelations have shocked some on social media, with users sharing images of their own cats and vowing they would have put up a fight. The unofficial parody Twitter account of 10 Downing Street’s own feline friend Larry wrote “it’s hard not to take this personally.”
Bethell added in the Channel 4 interview that there was a time when the evidence suggested there was merit in taking the extraordinary measure, but it was investigated and ultimately dismissed.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animals do not appear to play a significant role in the spread of the coronavirus to humans, but animal cases have been documented and most of them were “infected after of contact with people with COVID-19”. ”
Despite this, there have been examples of some countries pursuing the mass killing of animals or pets in an attempt to contain the virus. Hong Kong tested and euthanized about 2,000 hamsters in January 2022, after several tested positive for the virus in the preceding weeks. Early in the pandemic, in November 2020, Denmark culled 17 million mink out of fear that a mutation could be transferred from mink to humans.
Read more: Hong Kong says hamsters may have infected a pet store worker with COVID-19. Now everyone must die
Denmark was the world’s largest mink producer and the decision was deemed to have no legal justification. The fallout led Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to call a snap election in October last year after a member of her ruling coalition government threatened to withdraw support from her amid the controversy.
Bethell’s comments to Channel 4 come a day after political journalist Isabel Oakeshott leaked more than 100,000 private WhatsApp messages in relation to the way Matt Hancock, who was health minister from 2018 to 2021, handled the pandemic. . The Telegraph .
Bethell’s revelations came after being asked about the government’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hancock had entrusted Oakeshott with the messages in the hope of writing a biography. Hancock was the subject of numerous personal and professional scandals, culminating in his resignation in June 2021 amid scandal over breaking COVID-19 restrictions. Among the revelations shared by Oakeshott was that Hancock dismissed expert advice to test anyone entering a nursing home for COVID-19 in the early days of the outbreak. In the first two years of the pandemic, Britain recorded more than 40,000 COVID-19 related deaths in care homes.
The leaked messages appear to show that Hancock was concerned that expanding nursing home testing could “get in the way” of his personal goal of 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day.
Hancock has denied ignoring expert advice and is reportedly considering legal action over the claims made in the post.