Mink strain of coronavirus ‘most likely’ extinct, says Denmark

Antibody-resistant strain of Covid could have hampered vaccination efforts

Tim Wyatt
Thursday 19 November 2020 14:34 GMT
The Danish government ordered the culling of all 17m mink in its fur farms
The Danish government ordered the culling of all 17m mink in its fur farms (Getty Images)

The mutant strain of coronavirus born in Denmark’s mink farms has probably been eradicated, the country’s health ministry has said.  

Authorities in Denmark ordered the extermination of 17 million mink being farmed across the country last month after it discovered dozens of people had been infected with new forms of Covid which had come from mink.

There were fears one particular mink strain, known as Cluster 5, could impede the effectiveness of future vaccines as it was more resistant to the protective antibodies against the virus.  

However, following the mass cull, Denmark’s health ministry said in a statement it believed it had managed to wipe out the mink strain entirely.

“No further cases of mink variant with Cluster 5 have been detected since 15 September, which is why the State Serum Institute assesses that this variant has most likely become extinct," the statement said.  

Experts from the World Health Organisation had said outbreaks of coronavirus at mink fur farms were concerning, given the weasel-like creatures were good hosts for the virus, which could easily evolve while circulating through the tightly-packed farms before jumping back into humans in a more dangerous form.  

Denmark is one of the world’s largest fur producers exporting the majority of its products to Asian markets. Multiple strains of mink-related coronavirus were found on 207 out of the country’s 1,139 fur farms, leading to a 250,000 people living in the North Jutland region where most farms are located to be placed under a stricter lockdown.  

As infection rates are now dropping there, the health ministry also announced it would ease restrictions.  

It is estimated that the swiftly-imposed cull of all mink will cost the country about £600m and has also sparked a political scandal.

On Wednesday, the food and agriculture minister resigned after the government admitted it had not passed the necessary legislation before ordering the extermination of the nation’s mink.  

This constitutional breach has prompted some opposition parties in Denmark to call for prime minister Mette Frederiksen to also step down.

So far, Ms Frederiksen has resisted demands for her resignation but has apologised. She was due to meet Queen Margrethe for the traditional presentation of her new government, but has had to cancel after a member of her family tested positive for coronavirus.  

The prime minister, who heads a Social Democratic-led minority government, said both she and the outgoing agriculture minister Mogens Jensen, who had been with Ms Frederiksen yesterday to offer his resignation, would not go to the palace to see the Queen “out of an extra precautionary measure”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in