Buyers Flock To Live Chickens Hong Kong Begins To Move Past Flap Over Diseased Birds

MONDAY, FEB. 9, 1998

Vendors began selling chickens Sunday for the first time in six weeks, and the demand sent prices soaring despite lingering fears over a bird flu that has killed six people.

“I missed eating chicken,” said a smiling Kitty Lee, who had just purchased a live bird at a market and had it slaughtered.

She said the new hygiene requirements for the poultry markets and stringent quarantine and blood tests for the chickens have eased her worries about eating poultry.

Vendors complained that only 35,000 birds were imported into Hong Kong on Saturday, when the government lifted a ban on live chickens from China.

Before the ban was imposed on Dec. 24, Hong Kong imported 80,000 birds daily, or 75 percent of the territory’s daily consumption, from China.

No new flu cases have been reported in Hong Kong since the government slaughtered all the territory’s 1.4 million chickens in late December.

Of the 18 people stricken with the bird-carried virus since last year, only two remained hospitalized.

“I thought people would still be reluctant to buy chickens. I guess I was wrong,” said May Tang, a poultry retailer, who had sold most of her stock by midday.

The birds were fetching prices up to $11.50 each. Retailers said wholesalers were charging about 30 percent more than before the ban because of the scarce supply.

“This is all worth it,” said Angela Fan, who bought a cooked chicken as an offering to Buddha for her Sunday’s prayer ceremony. Fan said she had resorted to frozen birds in the past weeks.

Chickens imported into Hong Kong must now carry a certificate saying that they are free from the virus.

There is no vaccine for the virus, and medical experts still don’t know how it is transmitted to humans.


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