Researchers from University College London want a mass surveillance programme of animals that live close to humans, amid fears that pets are harbouring COVID-19 and could spark a second wave.
They warn there is increasing evidence that pets and livestock can catch the disease, incubate it and then infect owners. If the virus becomes common in animals there is a risk of another outbreak even if it has been eradicated in people, they add.
Professor Joanne Santini called for more research to establish which animals are susceptible to COVID-19 and for more testing.
She said: “Virus transmission in animal populations could become irreversible if left unchecked and may threaten the success of existing public health measures if people continue to catch the virus from an infected population of animals.”
Professor Sarah Edwards added: “There’s an urgent need for widespread surveillance, by testing samples, preferably non-invasively, from large numbers of animals, particularly pets, livestock and wildlife that are in close proximity to human populations.”