Denmark vows ‘full transparency’ over mink-related Covid-19 clusters

Addressing the “concerning development” of Covid-19 mutation in minks and its transmission to 214 people, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the government will ensure “full transparency and take resolute measures to address” the new clusters

“The Danish government takes the situation seriously and has chosen to act fast and decisively with the clear commitment that we would rather go a step too far then take a step too little,” Xinhua news agency quoted Kofod as saying at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

Meanwhile, Soren Brostrom, director general of the Danish Health Authority, said he was confident and optimistic that the mutated mink-related outbreak could be contained.

Addressing the same press conference, Brostrom noted that despite “the rapidly evolving transmission” in a number of areas across the country, Denmark has proven to have a “very large testing capacity, a good monitoring system and is able to work very closely with the national and local authorities to implement measures that will enable us to retain control of the epidemic”.

Five Covid-19 mutation clusters due to farmed minks have infected 214 people, and the most problematic “cluster 5” might have resistance to the antibodies with its “spike protein”, the Danish Statens Serum Institute (SSI) has said.

“This is serious as it may mean that a future Covid-19 vaccine will be less effective against infection with these variants,” said the SSI in an update.

“Covid-19 infection had been registered in Denmark on 216 mink farms by November 6,” the SSI said.

“Variants of the virus have been detected in 214 people among 5,102 samples that have been completely sequenced from week 24 to week 42, from the beginning of June to mid-October, when there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 among minks.”

Of particular concern to the SSI is that the “cluster 5” mutation discovered in minks has been shown in laboratory experiments to be less sensitive to antibodies, because the changed “spike protein” enables it to penetrate a cell.

“Specific virus from ‘cluster 5’ has been detected with four simultaneous changes in the genes for the ‘spike protein’ in five North Jutland mink farms and in 12 patient samples,” said the SSI.

The Danish government has already responded to the threat posed by the mutated coronavirus by starting the culling of 17 million minks and shutting down the entire mink industry in the country, while applying severe local restrictions in the North Jutland region.

The North Jutland region is also preparing to mass test 280,000 citizens in seven affected municipalities, where most of the country’s 1,137 mink farms are located.

From Saturday until December 3, restaurants, cafes and bars will be closed, indoor sports events and cultural activities will be cancelled and all forms of public transport will be shut down in the seven municipalities.

Denmarls overall coronavirus caseload now stands at 53,180, while the number of deaths has increased to 788.