Mutated COVID-19 from mink in Denmark most likely extinct, health ministry says

Mutated COVID-19 from mink in Denmark most likely extinct, health ministry says

FILE PHOTO: Denmark mink culling process
FILE PHOTO: Mink are seen at the farm of Henrik Nordgaard Hansen and Ann-Mona Kulsoe Larsen near Naestved, Denmark, Nov 6, 2020. (Photo: Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via REUTERS/File Photo)

COPENHAGEN: A new, mutated strain of the novel coronavirus stemming from mink farms in Denmark is "most likely" extinct, the health ministry said on Thursday (Nov 19), amid fears the new strain could compromise COVID-19 vaccines.

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

Two weeks ago, Denmark ordered all farmed mink in the country culled to curb widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 on farms, a situation exacerbated by the discovery of a mutated variant, which authorities said showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies.

On Wednesday, the Nordic country's Food and Agriculture Minister resigned following the admission by the government it did not have the proper legal basis behind the cull order, making it a potential constitutional breach.

Opposition parties in Denmark are calling for Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to step down too, saying she was ultimately responsible.

Frederiksen has apologised publicly, but maintains the decision to cull all mink was sound and based on an assessment by health authorities.

READ: Denmark defends COVID-19 measures after mink mutation

READ: COVID-19 curbs tighten in Europe as global deaths top 1.3 million

Based on improved infection numbers in the northern part of Denmark, home to most of the country's mink farms, the Health Ministry on Thursday also announced it would ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago to curb the spread of the virus.

Mink have shown a particular susceptibility to infection from the coronavirus, a problem inflamed by the fact that mink are bred in large numbers and in close living conditions, according to the World Health Organization. 

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Source: Reuters/kv