BEIJING: The coronavirus outbreak that has claimed over 630 lives has also badly affected the food supplies of birds and animals at a zoo in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic that is wreaking havoc in China and abroad.
A total of 636 people have died, mostly in central Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, due to the virus with the total number of confirmed cases jumping to 3,143 as of Thursday, Chinese officials announced on Friday.
Since the outbreak in Hubei province in December, the entire province has been kept under lockdown by officials to prevent the virus from spreading human to human. This lockdown has resulted in food shortages for the animals in the Wuhan Zoo.
Because of the virus, animals lacking food in the Wuhan Zoo have had their troubles but the problem was solved thanks to joint efforts from solicitous people nationwide, state-run China Daily reported on Friday. Birds and animals are at the centre of the debate on how the virus originated.
Chinese health experts have contended that the virus originated from bats, but whether there are more intermediate carriers between bats and humans requires further investigation.
Some reports have hinted at snakes. The virus is believed to have been spread from Wuhan's Hunan seafood wholesale market.
The zoo said the food supplies, mainly for those animals living on aquatic products, have stabilised since it released an emergency call for help.
According to a notice released on the zoo's social media account on February 1, aquatic products for some birds, such as penguins, cranes and pelicans, were in severe shortage.
Several aquatic animals were in severe need of feed. Mudfish was needed for cranes, crucian for capelins and small yellow croakers for penguins, the the report said.
"Fresh fish, especially the small crucian, usually come from fishermen in nearby cities or towns. The temporary traffic controls became a great challenge to the transportation between cities in the province," the daily quoted local science writer in Wuhan Hua Shi as quoted.
The zoo's public appeal for help received immense support from people nationwide who wanted to help. On Saturday, the zoo announced that some local citizens had already sent food to the zoo.
Freshhema, a popular supermarket, also gave a helping hand. As of Sunday afternoon, 100 kilograms of mudfish from Freshhema had arrived at Wuhan Zoo and another 250 kilogrammes of crucian, mainly for pelicans, will be sent to the zoo within a few days, the report said.
China and countries around the world are scrambling to contain the spread of coronavirus. Apart from China, two deaths have occurred in Hong Kong and the Philippines. Besides Germany, Britain and Italy, other European nations with cases of the virus include France, Russia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and Spain.