Denmark has decided to cull its mink population of up to 17 million after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans.
On Denmark’s plans to kill every mink in the country to contain a coronavirus mutation that had begun spreading back to humans, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said health authorities found virus strains in humans and in mink which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies, potentially lowering the efficacy of future vaccines.
"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well," Frederiksen was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Denmark is Europe's largest producer and exporter of mink furs.
What is the Present Status?
Danish authorities on Thursday said five cases of the new virus strain had been recorded on mink farms and 12 cases in humans, and that there were between 15 million and 17 million mink in the country.
Outbreaks at mink farms have persisted in the Nordic country despite repeated efforts to cull infected animals since June.
Denmark's police, army and home guard will be deployed to speed up the culling process, PM Frederiksen said.
Tougher lockdown restrictions and intensified tracing efforts will be implemented to contain the virus in some areas of Northern Denmark, home to a large number of mink farms, authorities said.
Covid-19 Variant Could Spark New Pandemic: Scientists
As per a report in The Guardian, a Danish vaccine specialist has warned that a new wave of coronavirus could be started by the Covid-19 mink variant.
Prof Kare Molbak, vaccine expert and director of infectious diseases at Denmark’s State Serum Institute (SSI), told The Guardian, “The worst-case scenario is that we would start off a new pandemic in Denmark. There’s a risk that this mutated virus is so different from the others that we’d have to put new things in a vaccine and therefore [the mutation] would slam us all in the whole world back to the start.”
The expert added, however, that the world was in a better place than when the Covid-19 outbreak began, saying scientists know the virus, have measures in place.
WHO: Mink Good Reservoirs for Covid-19
Mink appear to be susceptible to the new SARS-CoV-2 virus and "good reservoirs" for the disease, with a mutated strain having caused infections in a dozen people in Denmark, a World Health Organisation official said.
"So there is a risk of course that this mink population could contribute in some way to the transmission of the virus from minks into humans, and then onwards from humans to humans," Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer at WHO's European office in Copenhagen, said.
While the research into this specific variant of the virus is significant, she said it's "totally normal" for the virus to change genetically over time.
"We are tracking these (changes) very very carefully and that's why we are so interested in this particular information," she said, adding that it should not alter how governments and authorities around the world are trying to control the pandemic.
Hans Kluge, WHO European regional director said Denmark showed "determination and courage" in the face of a decision to cull its mink population of 17 million animals, which has a "huge economic impact".
Denmark Tightens Lockdown
Denmark announced strict new lockdown rules on Thursday in the north of the country after authorities discovered a mutated coronavirus strain in minks bred in the region, which prompted a nationwide cull that will devastate the large pelt industry.
Seven municipalities in northern Denmark, home to most of the country's mink farms, will face restrictions on movement across county lines, while restaurants and bars will be closed, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.
Schools will be closed and all public transport will be shut until Dec 3., she said, encouraging inhabitants in the region to stay within their municipality and get tested.
UK Removes Denmark from Travel Corridor List
Britain said it is removing Denmark from the government's travel corridor list, with people arriving in the UK from there needing to self-isolate starting Friday after health authorities in Denmark reported widespread coronavirus outbreaks in mink farms.
"Passengers arriving into the UK from Denmark from 4 am on Friday 6 November 2020 will need to self-isolate for 14 days by law before following domestic restrictions now in force," UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.
"I understand that this will be concerning for both people currently in Denmark and the wider UK public, which is why we have moved quickly to protect our country and prevent the spread of the virus to the UK," he added.