(Photo by DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP via Getty Images)

A former Sri Lankan fisheries minister bit into a raw fish at a news conference in Colombo on Tuesday to encourage sales following a slump during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fish sales in the country have cratered after a major coronavirus cluster emerged in the Central Fish Market in the outskirts of the capital last month.

“Our people who are in the fisheries industry cannot sell their fish. People of this country are not eating fish,” said Dilip Wedaarachchi, gesticulating with a medium-sized fish.

Wedaarachchi, an opposition lawmaker, served as fisheries minister until last year.

“I brought this fish to show you. I am making an appeal to the people of this country to eat this fish. Don’t be afraid. You will not get infected by the coronavirus,” he said, before taking a bite out of the whole fish.

The outbreak in the main wholesale market has led to thousands of infections and spread across the country.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of fish have been left unsold after the market was forced to close, and prices plunged as people stopped buying and eating fish, a mainstay of the Sri Lankan diet.