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The Danish government has taken steps to order the slaughter of all minks in Denmark »as soon as possible« following the discovery of a mutated form of coronavirus which has spread to humans.
The announcement came from Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
She also announced that steps are being taken to isolate a number of areas in the North of Jutland in order to contain outbreaks of this new, mutated virus. The government is due to present its plan on Thursday.
The serious situation has come about following a dedicated but ultimately failed effort to contain the virus in Danish minks. And according to the Danish State Serum Institute, the virus in minks has now mutated to a stage where there is now a risk that the vaccines currently under development across the globe will not work.
»This is an extremely serious situation,« Mette Frederiksen said, adding:
»Despite a dedicated effort, 207 mink farms have been infected. It has not been possible to contain the outbreak which has now spread to humans.«
The virus mutation has so far been found to have spread to 12 individuals who have been found to have an impaired reaction to antibodies, which could mean that any future vaccine will not have the intended effect.
According to the Danish Prime Minister, this could have »heavy negative consequences for the entire world«.
»With the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility to the rest of the world. For that reason, we need to take this extremely seriously, and we intend to do everything we can to contain it and make sure that it does not spread,« Mette Frederiksen stated.
The spread of the new, mutated virus is, she said, »a serious risk to public health and to the development of a vaccine«.
An emergency plan to kill all the up to 17 million minks in Denmark will now be put into action under police command, with assistance from the military and emergency services.
»This is a decision we have taken with a heavy heart. But a necessary one. We have great sympathy for the mink breeders, and we are sorry. It is your livelihood and for some your life's work and an entire family heritage that will now be lost. And it is an important Danish export success that will now be lost. We are painfully aware of this. Today is a sad day,« Mette Frederiksen said and added:
»To all of you in North Jutland: We know you will be living with an uncomfortable uncertainty until tomorrow. This is a worrying and extremely serious situation that has compelled us to act now forcefully – not just for Denmark, but for the rest of the world. We need to get this situation under control.«
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke added that there are as yet no indications that the mutated virus, which has been traced to five different mink farms, causes a more serious form of Covid-19. And Kåre Mølbak, scientific head of the State Serum Institute, said that the spread of the mutation was worrying, as there are special mutations that happen when a virus changes its host from humans to minks or any other biological system other than an animal species.