Denmark, the world's biggest producer of mink, said it would cull all of the furry animals after a mutated version of the novel coronavirus had spread across farms and infected personnel, TV2 reported.
The mutation could pose a risk that “future [coronavirus] vaccines won't work the way they should”, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen warned at a press conference, emphasising the necessity of future culls.
“The mutated virus could thereby have serious negative consequences for the whole world’s response to the ongoing pandemic,” Frederiksen explained. At the same time, the emergency measure would stop the industry entirely for a number of years, Frederiksen admitted.
The director of the State Serum Institut, Kåre Mølbak, called the situation “very serious”. Mølbak estimated that four to five percent of those infected in North Jutland may have the mutated version of coronavirus, where antibodies do not immediately kill the infection.
“The worst case scenario is that we have a pandemic that starts all over again based in Denmark”, Mølbak said.
So far, twelve Danes have been registered as infected with the mutated form of the coronavirus, which was reported to respond weakly to antibodies. COVID-19 has been detected at 207 Danish mink farms.
Denmark’s mink industry is the largest of its kind in the world. Last year, Denmark produced 24.5 million mink skins, and the industry had a turnover of DKK 5.2 bln (about $800 mln).
According to a police estimate, between 15 and 17 million mink would need to be put down. The armed forces and fire services will be involved in the great cull.
It will not be possible for the mink breeders to keep individual animals.
“Even the retention of a small number of breeding animals will constitute a risk,” Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Mogens Jensen emphasised, admitting that this would mean a de facto closing down of the Danish mink industry for at least a number of years.
At the Association of Danish Mink Breeders, the decision was seen as a “disaster” and “a black day”.
So far, Denmark has seen a total of 50,530 COVID-19 cases, with 729 deaths.