Patients at one of Wuhan’s coronavirus hospitals have been given turtle meat for dinner while being quarantined, it has emerged.
‘Today’s meal includes softshell turtle meat,’ one person in isolation claimed in a video released by Chinese media.
The contagious disease, which has killed 638 people, was passed onto humans from wild animals – especially bats and snakes – through other animals, experts believe.
Chinese scientists today suggested that pangolins might be the link which allowed the virus to spread from bats to mankind.
The meat of softshell turtles, or ‘jia yu’ in Mandarin, is considered highly nutritious in the traditional Chinese medicine.
People believe that those turtles, native to the country, are rich in protein and can help sick people recover more quickly.
They can come from the wild or breeding farms, and are usually simmered in water to make a nourishing broth.
Independent Chinese video news outlet, Ren Jian Zhi Bei, yesterday published a video taken by several patients inside a makeshift coronavirus hospital.
The first patient, a woman, can be heard saying: ‘Brothers and sisters, look, you are fighting on the front line, and we are fighting on the front line with you.’
A second patient, a man, showed viewers a set of life necessities given to him by the medical centre, including slippers, a towel, toothpaste and toilet paper.
A third patient, also male, introduced the hospital meal. He said: ‘Today’s meal includes softshell turtle meat.’
The coronavirus epidemic has so far claimed 638 lives and infected more than 31,520 people in 28 countries and territories around the world – but 99 per cent of infections have been in China.
The outbreak has prompted the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency, several governments to impose travel restrictions, and airlines to suspend flights to and from China.
Since the virus broke out in Wuhan in late December, Chinese experts have tracked down its source to wild animals, especially bats and snakes. They believe the virus was spread to human from the bat through other animals..
Researchers at the South China Agricultural University have identified the pangolin as a ‘potential intermediate host,’ the institution said in a statement on Friday.
Despite all eight species of pangolin under protection from trafficking by international law, they are one of the most bought and sold mammals in Asia and Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam, their meat is a delicacy and their scales are used as ingredients for traditional medicine.
But British academics cautioned that this is only a preliminary investigation and its findings are far from conclusive.
China’s central government has ordered Wuhan to round up all suspected coronavirus patients as well as their close contacts in mass quarantine camps.
The country’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan called on a ‘people’s war’ against the fast-spreading epidemic, which has killed at least 638 people and infected more than 31,520 globally.
She demanded Communist officials of all levels take active lead in this ‘wartime condition’, or face being ‘nailed onto the pillar of historical shame forever’.
The city has around 14 million residents, but it remains unknown how many people would be quarantined or where they would be kept.
Wuhan officials are now carrying out door-to-door health checks to identify potential carriers who would need to be isolated.