HONG KONG — Hong Kong is lifting a ban on the importing of hamsters for sale, a year after it ordered more than 2,000 hamsters and other small mammals to be culled in an effort to prevent pets from spreading Covid-19 to people.

“According to the newest risk assessment and current situation, this department believes that the import ban for hamsters could be lifted,” the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in an emailed statement on Thursday. 

The department said it was preparing for commercial hamster imports to resume by the middle of this month, with all imported hamsters required to undergo quarantine and released to the market only after they test negative for the coronavirus. A ban on commercial imports of other small mammals like chinchillas and guinea pigs was lifted in May.

The Hong Kong government ordered the culling last January after a small virus outbreak was traced to a pet shop called Little Boss that had imported hamsters from the Netherlands. Eleven of the shop’s hamsters tested positive for the delta variant, which had not been seen in the city in months. 

Hong Kong residents who had recently purchased hamsters were advised to surrender their pets,

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