17 Million mink to be killed ‘due to coronavirus’ in Denmark
Denmark will cull 17 million mink over fears the ferret-like animals are passing on a mutated strain of coronavirus to humans.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the drastic move on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) as the death toll from Europe’s second wave climbed sharply in some hard-hit countries.
Frederiksen – who is self-isolating after a close contact tested positive – said authorities had detected coronavirus strains in humans and mink which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies.
She ordered the national cull with a “heavy heart” but said mutations in the animals were a threat to the effectiveness of vaccines in development around the globe.
“The mutated virus – via mink – can carry the risk that the upcoming vaccine will not work as it should,” Frederiksen said in a press conference.
“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.”
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said about half of 783 infected people in northern Denmark, home to many mink farms, had been infected with a strain stemming from the farms.
Heunicke said the mutated virus had been detected in 12 humans and in five mink farms.
There are between 15 million and 17 million mink in Denmark – the world’s largest producer of mink fur. They are bred on nearly 1200 farms. The government has promised compensation to farmers.
It has shared its findings with the World Health Organisation, which was already investigating whether animals could transmit the disease to humans.
A targeted cull has been under way at some farms since July but the police, army and national guard will be deployed over the coming days to cull the entire population quickly. Mink have also been culled in some other countries, including the Netherlands and Spain.
However, Francois Balloux, the director of the University College London Genetics Institute and a professor of computational systems biology, cast doubt on the findings.
“There are thousands of mutations in SARS-CoV-2 arising constantly,” he said on Twitter. “The fact that a few have been observed in minks will not change the strains in circulation in humans. If they were beneficial for the virus to infect its human host, they would be at high frequency already.”
In Britain, a new month-long national lockdown came into force in England on Thursday night amid warnings a steadily rising rate of infections and hospitalisations threaten to overrun the National Health Service.
The United Kingdom recorded a further 492 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll over the past fortnight to 3584.
The lockdown passed the House of Commons on Wednesday but 55 Conservative Party MPs opposed it or abstained from it.
“None of us came into politics to tell people once again to shutter their shops, to furlough their staff or stay away from their friends and family,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament.
Deaths also rose by 394 in France, 352 in Italy and 1623 in Spain after the government there revised its count.
Courtesy of smh.com.au