The Danish government announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in the northeast of the country after authorities discovered that a mutated version of the coronavirus in minks was also found in humans.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen warned that the mutation could threaten the effectiveness of any future vaccine. She said the mutated virus was found to weaken the ability to form antibodies.
As a result, seven municipalities in the north of the country, home to most of Denmark’s mink farms, will impose restrictions on movement across county lines.
“From tonight, citizens in seven areas of north Jutland are strongly encouraged to stay in their area to prevent the spread of infection,” Frederiksen said during a news conference.
“We are asking you in north Jutland to do something completely extraordinary,” she added, speaking of a “real closure” of the region. “The eyes of the world are on us.”
North Jutland shutdown
Frederiksen discouraged people from traveling to the affected region. She said public transport will be shut down with buses and trains stopped from entering or leaving north Jutland until December 3.
Frederiksen also said schools, bars and restaurants will shut, as will museums, libraries, swimming pools and gyms.
In addition, people were advised to work from home, and public gatherings were limited to a maximum of 10 people.
The prime minister urged inhabitants in the region to stay within their municipality and get tested.
Coronavirus mutation linked to mink farms
The regional shutdown comes a day after the government ordered the cull of all minks bred at fur farms following the discovery of the mutated virus.
So far, 12 people in the north have been diagnosed with the new form of the virus. Health officials said they have not displayed more serious forms of the disease.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke had said half the 783 human coronavirus cases in northern Denmark ”are related” to mink.
Minister for Food Mogens Jensen said that at least 207 farms were now infected, up from 41 last month, and that the virus has spread to all of the western peninsula of Jutland.
The government said that the culling of the country’s estimated 15 million minks could cost up to 5 billion kroner ($785 million; €670 million).
Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s European regional director, said Denmark showed “determination and courage” in deciding to cull the mink population, given the “huge economic impact” it would have.
Authorities have been calling for the culling of infected mink herds since June due to persisting outbreaks at mink farms.
Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink skins, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year and employing around 4,000 people. Last year, the Danish mink pelt industry racked up exports of around $800 million.
The industry association for Danish breeders called the culling a “black day for Denmark.”
The government has promised to compensate farmers.
mvb/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)