Vietnam bans wildlife trade to help prevent future pandemics

Vietnam has banned the import of wildlife and wildlife products to reduce the risk of new pandemics.

The move also bans wildlife markets for such items, including online sales.

Vietnam has previously been accused of turning a blind eye to the sale of products such as pangolin scales and rhino horns often used in traditional medicine.

"The prime minister orders the suspension of imports of wildlife - dead or alive - their eggs... parts or derivatives," said the order released on Thursday on the Vietnamese government website.

"All citizens, especially officials... must not participate in illegal poaching, buying, selling, transporting... of illegal wildlife."

The country will also "resolutely eliminate market and trading sites which trade wildlife illegally", the order said.

Conservationists welcomed the move.

"Vietnam is to be congratulated for recognising that Covid-19 and other pandemics are linked to the wildlife trade," said Steven Galster, chairman of the anti-trafficking group Freeland.

"This trade must be banned as a matter of international and public health security," he added.

In February, a dozen conservation groups sent a joint letter urging the government to "identify and close markets and other locations where illegal wildlife is on sale".

Vietnam has reported no coronavirus deaths.