A new Covid-19 mutation that started in Denmark’s mink population has spread beyond the region in which it was first discovered to the eastern part of the country.
Health officials made the announcement as a lockdown was imposed on much of Denmark’s western peninsula of Jutland, home to most of the country’s mink production. Denmark is now in talks with the World Health Organization amid concerns the mutant strain found in the animals may derail efforts to develop a vaccine against Covid-19.
Kare Molbak, the country’s top epidemiologist, told reporters that the WHO representatives he spoke with on Thursday made clear they are “very worried about the findings in Denmark.
For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.
The mutation affects the spike protein, which could make it particularly hard to fight. Denmark is now taking the drastic step of culling its entire mink population -- up to 17 million animals -- in order to halt the outbreak.
Magnus Heunicke, Denmark’s health minister, said there’s at least one known case in the island on which Copenhagen is located of a person being infected with the new strain of the virus. He said he couldn’t rule out that there were more cases.
Molbak said Denmark so far hasn’t received reports from other countries with large mink populations, such as the Netherlands, of similar outbreaks. Denmark’s outbreak is “unique, he said.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the seriousness of the outbreak called for new restrictions in western Denmark. Locals will no longer be able to use public transport and people are being urged to work from home. School children in grades five to eight will have to stay home, she said.
There are so far 12 known cases of humans having been infected by the new virus strain in Denmark. Cases of Covid-19 were found in over 200 out of more than 1,100 Danish mink farms, the government said on Wednesday.
People who have contracted the new form of the virus don’t appear to be suffering more severe symptoms, according to Danish health officials. The virus was most likely originally transmitted to the mink from humans, and then back again.