Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a decree on Monday banning mink farming until at least March amid fears that coronavirus mutations may affect vaccine efficacy.
"If there is suspected infection, relevant local authorities are to seize the farm, block the movement of animals… and start an epidemiological investigation," the Health Ministry said in a press release.
Italy has a small population of farmed mink compared to other EU countries, the health authority said, but the government has decided to adopt the policy of maximum precaution.
Millions of farmed mink have been culled across Europe after Denmark confirmed that over 200 people had been infected with mink-related coronavirus strains, including 12 people who developed a lower sensitivity to COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies.
After the WHO revealed that new coronavirus samples had been detected at mink farms all across the world, the Danish scientists uploaded 6,000 virus sequencing and the mink variant information to a Gisaid global database website. Researchers from University College London used the data and confirmed that the so-called "mink coronavirus" proved to reduce antibody efficacy and has been identified in more than 300 variants.