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Denmark has said it would cull around 15 million minks after a mutated version of the coronavirus spread to people. The government said the mutation poses a risk to the efficacy of future vaccines.
Denmark will cull all minks in Danish farms to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting COVID-19 to humans, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced on Wednesday.
Frederiksen said a report from a government agency that tracks the coronavirus in Denmark has discovered a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who became infected by minks.
She cited that the mutated virus was found to weaken the ability to form antibodies and could potentially render vaccines under development ineffective.
"The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine," Frederiksen said at a press conference.
''It is very, very serious,'' she added. '' Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.''
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said half the 783 human coronavirus cases in northern Denmark ''are related'' to mink.
Minister for Food Mogens Jensen said that at least 207 farms were now infected, up from 41 last month, and that the virus has spread to all of the western peninsula of Jutland.
Denmark's home guard, police and defence forces are assisting in the cull.
National police chief Thorkild Fogde said the culling ''should happen as soon as possible.''
Millions of minks to be culled
The government said that the culling of the country's estimated 15 million minks could cost up to 5 billion kroner ($785 million, €670). The government has promised to compensate farmers.
Authorities have been calling for the culling of infected mink herds since June due to persisting outbreaks at mink farms.
On October 1, Denmark already ordered the cull of an estimated one million animals on about 60 mink farms in northern Denmark after initial discoveries of COVID-19.
Denmark is the world's largest producer of mink skins, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year.
Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of world mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.
The Nordic country has recorded 50,530 coronavirus infections with 729 deaths.
mv/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)