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In a list published earlier this month, China’s National Health Commission recommended a number of treatments for the symptoms of the virus, including both traditional Chinese and Western remedies.
The treatment is an injection called Tan Re Qing (TRQ), which is a traditional Chinese medicine formula. In addition to bear bile powder, the injection uses goat horn and dried fruit.
The injection can help to alleviate respiratory distress, particularly in cases of pneumonia and bronchitis. One of the major symptoms of the coronavirus is a dry cough and difficulty breathing.
Aron White, a wildlife campaigner of the London-based nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency condemned the action taken by the Chinese government.
“Restricting the eating of wildlife while promoting medicines containing wildlife parts exemplifies the mixed messages being sent by the Chinese authorities on wildlife trade,” White said in a statement via the EIA website.
“A huge number of people in China have been calling for greater restrictions on wildlife trade. EIA strongly supports these calls and wants to see China’s ban extended to cover the use of threatened wildlife for any purpose, including in traditional medicine.”
His organization first learned about the recommendation via social media posts from illegal traders.
In mid-February, China took steps to ban the consumption and trade of wild animals in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus. Many believe that the virus originated from an animal and seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping had called for China to “resolutely outlaw and harshly crackdown” on illegal wildlife trade, partially due to the public health risk it poses.
The use of bear bile, then, comes as a surprise to many critics and activists alike who had lauded China for taking the steps towards a wider ban.
The particular bile used in TRQ comes from the Asiatic black bear, many of which die due to the unskilled removal of the gallbladder to harvest the bile.
The WHO has stated that no known cure exists for the coronavirus.