SALT LAKE CITY — A bipartisan group of senators, including Utah’s Mitt Romney, want China to immediately shut down all of its wet markets to prevent the spread of disease.

“It is well documented that wet markets in China have been the source of a number of worldwide health problems, and their operation should cease immediately so as to protect the Chinese people and the international community from additional health risks,” according to the senators.

 A wet market is a marketplace that sells meat, fish, produce and other perishable goods.

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The group, led by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del., made its plea Thursday in a letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai.

In the letter, the senators quote Gao Fu, the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that “the origin of the new coronavirus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan (China) seafood market.”

They also note that Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, recently called for the closing of wet markets “right away.”

“I mean it boggles my mind when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human animal interface that we don’t just shut it down,” Fauci said. “And I think that there are certain countries in which this is very commonplace. I would like to see the rest of the world really lean with a lot of pressure on those countries that have that because what we are going through right now is a direct result of that.” 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping stated that China would “resolutely outlaw and harshly crack down” on wildlife trafficking, according to the letter. Also earlier this year, China’s congress indicated it is necessary to crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade, and control major public health risks from the source.

“Despite these statements, wet markets in Wuhan and throughout China are back in operation after the recent shutdowns,” the senators wrote.

The letter “urgently” requests that China close all wet markets that have the potential to  transmit diseases to humans from animals.

“We understand and respect that wet markets are an important component to Chinese society and way of life, but we believe the current moment, which has disrupted everyday life around the world, calls for extreme precautions,” the senators wrote.