A lockdown in Denmark began Friday as officials ordered millions of minks - farmed for their fur - to be destroyed after a mutated variation of COVID-19 was discovered on more than 200 farms in the region.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the lockdown was aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. It comes two days after the government ordered the cull of all 15 million minks bred in the European country’s 1,139 mink farms. The nation is the world’s leading mink fur producer.
The lockdown will affect about 280,000 residents in the region, and the government is urging them all to be tested for coronavirus.
Speaking to reporters, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said that finding COVID-19 in mink was not a new development. It has happened in other countries and was first discovered in Denmark in June. But he said, “We have indications this unique mutation has reduced response to antibodies, which can ultimately affect the efficiency of a potential vaccine.” He said the testing on the mutation are continuing.
Kofod said as of Thursday, 216 mink farms have been infected. Speaking at the same news conference, Denmark's State Serum Institute chief Tyra Grove Krause said the mutated COVID-19 strain had been found in 12 people on five mink farms.
Experts say the coronavirus evolves constantly, and, to date, there is no evidence that any of the mutations pose an increased danger to people. But Danish authorities say they are not taking chances.
Denmark officials had informed the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international health bodies.
When asked about the situation in Denmark during a briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva, WHO Technical Lead for COVID-19 Maria van Kerkhove said transmission of the virus between animals and humans was "a concern,” but added such mutations are normal and the agency has been tracking them since the pandemic started.
Kerkove said WHO officials are working with offices in regions where there are mink farms, “and looking at biosecurity and to prevent spillover events.”
Overall, Denmark has reported 53,180 cases of coronavirus and 738 deaths.