The country’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, noted during a press conference that the mutated virus has the potential to spread to other countries and it “may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine.”
“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,” she said.
Frederiksen added that the decision had been made with a “heavy heart,” but the action was necessary based on the recommendation of local health officials. National police chief Thorkild Fogde urged that the culling “should happen as soon as possible” with the help of Denmark’s police and army.
The mutated virus was discovered in more than ten people. According to Health Minister Magnus Heunicke, roughly half of the nearly eight hundred confirmed human coronavirus cases in northern Denmark “are related to mink.”
Despite repeated efforts to cull the infected animals since June, outbreaks of coronavirus at mink farms have continued. In October, one million mink within a five-mile radius of a suspected or confirmed farm infection were destroyed.
On Friday, more than a quarter million Danes went into lockdown in a northern region of the country where a mutated variation of the coronavirus was found.
In seven northern Danish municipalities with 280,000 residents, all sports and cultural activities have been suspended, public transportation has been halted, and regional borders have been closed.
Frederiksen warned that more restrictions could be introduced in Hjorring, Frederikshavn, Bronderslev, Jammerbugt, Vesthimmerland, Thisted, and Laeso municipalities.
Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the emergencies program for the World Health Organization, has already called for scientific investigations of the mink infections, which in turn have transmitted the virus back to the human population.
In the United States, nearly ten thousand mink at nine fur farms in Utah have died from coronavirus complications. According to the Department of Agriculture, about fifty different animals—including dogs, cats, tigers, and lions—in the United States have been infected by coronavirus.
According to government estimates, culling Denmark’s mink population could cost up to $785 million.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.