Rahul Trivedi All materialsHong Kong is following mainland China’s zero-tolerance policy to control the pandemic. It has effectively closed its borders and imposed social restrictions to deal with a surge in COVID-19 infections due to the spread of the Omicron variant.The Hong Kong government has ordered the mass slaughter of hamsters after 11 rodents tested positive for COVID-19. The general public has been warned against kissing their pets. According to officials, a recent coronavirus cluster in humans traced back to a pet shop worker, prompting checks on hundreds of animals in the Chinese-ruled territory.Officials, however, said it was not clear if the virus had been transmitted to humans from imported hamsters but they still called on residents to surrender any hamsters imported since 22 December to be tested and euthanised to prevent any further spread.Hong Kong’s Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan told a news conference that the authorities were simply being cautious, despite the fact there’s no evidence that domestic animals can infect humans.Meanwhile, various pet shops have been closed and disinfected around the city. The local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which runs veterinary clinics, however, has urged a rethink.In a statement, it said: “The SPCA is shocked and concerned over the recent government announcement on the handling of over 2,000 small animals, which did not take animal welfare and the human-animal bond into consideration.”Slamming the measures as premature, head of welfare group World Animal Protection Jan Schmidt-Burbach said: “Culling animals should always be a last resort and we encourage governments to explore other options, such as quarantine, first.”Hong Kong has also been testing rabbits and chinchillas but so far only the hamsters were found to be positive. They were all imported from the Netherlands, according to local broadcaster RTHK.Around the world, there have also been coronavirus cases in dogs and cats, although scientists say there is no evidence that animals play a major role in human contagion.