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Danish gov't defends order to kill minks with mutated coronavirus

Minks wait for their turn to be collected and processed to fur on Friday, at a fur farm near Naestved, Denmark. Mink farms throughout Denmark have been ordered by the government to cull all animals to prevent the spread of a mutated coronavirus. Photo by Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA-EFE
Minks wait for their turn to be collected and processed to fur on Friday, at a fur farm near Naestved, Denmark. Mink farms throughout Denmark have been ordered by the government to cull all animals to prevent the spread of a mutated coronavirus. Photo by Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA-EFE

Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Denmark has defended new restrictions on mink farms nationwide, ordering that potentially millions of the animals be culled after scientists discovered that some have been found to carry a mutated coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has said mutated COVID-19 strains have been linked to the minks and, in some cases, passed onto humans.

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The Danish government said earlier this week it would order infected animals to be killed, and defended the position on Friday.

"All remaining mink will now be culled including non-infected and otherwise healthy mink," Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters.

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"We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat COVID-19."

Danish officials said more than 200 mink farms nationwide have been infected with the coronavirus. Denmark has about 300 mink farms and the government's order applies to more than 10 million of the animals.

The WHO has yet to conclude that the mutation is a serious risk.

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Experts fear a mutated coronavirus could hinder development of antibodies against the virus and, in turn, reduce the chance of developing an effective vaccine.

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"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters.

Dr. Tyra Grove Krause of the Danish State Serum Institute said the warning about a mutated virus is no cause for panic.

"There is always a balance of risk," she said. "In this case, you need to act in time instead [of] waiting [to] get all the evidence. You need to act in time and stop transmission."

Chief WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it's too soon to assess the threat of the mutation found in minks.

"We need to wait and see what the implications are but I don't think we should come to any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy," Swaminathan said. "We don't have any evidence at the moment that it would."

Danish mink farmers have opposed the government restrictions and conclusions, saying they're being scapegoated for the virus' spread.

Some experts think that culling minks, which means killing those with the mutated virus, could harm the fur trade and cost Danish farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues.

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