Denmark is culling its entire mink population after a mutated coronavirus strain spread to humans

Europe continues to grapple with a surge of COVID-19 cases, with several major economies going into another lockdown.

Denmark, the world's biggest producer of mink fur, said on Wednesday it would cull all of the country's minks after a mutated version of the new coronavirus was detected at mink farms and had spread to people.

The mutation "could pose a risk that future (coronavirus) vaccines won't work the way they should," Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a press conference.

"It is necessary to cull all the minks."

Employees from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency in protective equipment.
Employees from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency in protective equipment.
RITZAU SCANPIX

Denmark's police chief Thorkild Fogde said they would start the culling as "soon as possible," but conceded that with 15 million to 17 million minks spread over 1,080 farms it was "a very large undertaking".

The World Health Organization said the novel coronavirus spreads primarily through human-to-human transmission, but that "there is evidence of transmission at the human-animal interface".

Several animals - including dogs and cats - have tested positive for the virus and there have been reported cases at mink farms in the Netherlands and Spain, as well as in Denmark.

"In a few instances, the minks that were infected by humans have transmitted the virus to other people. These are the first reported cases of animal-to-human transmission," a World Health Organisation representative said.

The novel coronavirus has been detected at 207 Danish mink farms, including some cases with a mutated version that has been confirmed to spread back to humans.

Health authorities have also concluded that the mutated virus "is not inhibited by antibodies to the same degree as the normal virus".

"Studies have shown that the mutations may affect the current candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine," Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said.

"It is a threat to the development of coronavirus vaccines. That is why it is important that we make a national effort," he added.

Reports on 04 November 2020 state that Denmark plans to cull all minks in the country's mink fur farms to contain a spread of a coronavirus mutation.
Reports on 04 November 2020 state that Denmark plans to cull all minks in the country's mink fur farms to contain a spread of a coronavirus mutation.
RITZAU SCANPIX

While the majority of cases had been observed in the northern part of the Jutland region, all minks in the country would still be culled.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is developing new technical guidance on animal health, including on testing and quarantine, the WHO said.

Italy to enforce curfew

It comes as Italy moved to impose a nationwide curfew and tougher measures for some populous regions as it faces a surge in coronavirus cases.

From Thursday, Italy's 60 million residents will be required to stay home from 10:00 pm until 5:00 am except for work or health reasons under a new decree signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

In addition, the country's regions will be divided into zones - high risk, medium high and moderate - based on how quickly the virus is spreading and availability of hospital beds, among other factors.

Health workers attend to a COVID-19 patient at one of the intensive care units in Italy.
Health workers attend to a COVID-19 patient at one of the intensive care units in Italy.
AAP

In the handful of high-risk "red zones", retail stores not selling essential goods such as food and pharmaceuticals are to shut, and people will be restricted from travelling outside their home town or city.

Travel between some regions is to be restricted as well.

Italy was the first European country hit by coronavirus and has so far reported 790,377 cases, including the 30,550 new infections reported in the past 24 hours. Nearly 39,800 people have died from the virus in the country. 

Mr Conte had hoped to avoid a country-wide lockdown such as that imposed in March, which devastated the economy, and wanted to wait to see whether more moderate restrictions imposed last week had had an impact.

People wearing a sanitary mask walk in downtown Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
People wearing a sanitary mask walk in downtown Milan, Italy, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.
AAP Image/AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Spain "under pressure"

With coronavirus infections rising, Spain's central government was under pressure Wednesday to follow the example of other European nations and impose a new national shutdown.

The country has the second-highest caseload in the European Union after France. It has recorded more than 1.2 million cases so far and 36,495 deaths, including 18,669 new infections and 238 new deaths reported by the health ministry on Tuesday.

More worryingly, pressure on hospitals is increasing with nearly a third of all hospital intensive care unit beds, 29 percent, occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Britain, France and Ireland have all recently re-imposed lockdowns as the virus that first emerged in China at the end of 2019 shows no sign of abating while other European nations like Portugal have entered partial lockdowns.

 Protesters block the Gran Via street in Madrid, Spain.
Riots broke out in several cities in Spain following protests against the government's new COVID-19 restrictions.
EFE

But until now, Spain has resisted, with the government hoping a national night-time curfew and other restrictions put in place by its regional authorities who are responsible for managing the pandemic, would be enough to slow the rate of infection. 

The regions of Cantabria, Galicia and Murcia on Wednesday ordered all bars and restaurants to close, a day after the northern Castilla y Leon region took the same step, while demanding tougher action from the government.

Source AFP - SBS

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