More than a quarter of a million people in northern Denmark were locked up on Friday, with citizens urged to get tested after Covid-19 infections were reported among the mink population in that region.
Restaurants in seven municipalities were ordered to close from Saturday, and schools in fifth grade and above had to switch to distance learning from Monday.
Elsewhere, the UK government has implemented stricter rules for arrivals from Denmark. Freight drivers who have been or have passed through Denmark in the last 14 days, and who are not residents of the UK, will now be refused entry to Britain. All passenger ships and accompanying cargo from Denmark will also be stopped.
In Ireland, passengers arriving from the Scandinavian country have been urged to take extra precautions to contain the spread of the newly discovered strain of coronavirus.
The Irish government has said people should restrict their movement for 14 days after entering the country from Denmark, even if they are visiting for “essential” purposes.
What do we know about this new Covid strain?
Danish health authorities sounded the alarm last week over a mutant form of the coronavirus that has appeared in mink farms and has spread to humans.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the situation “very, very serious” and ordered the country’s mink farms to slaughter the 15 million mink in a bid to reduce the risk of animals passing the strain of the coronavirus back to humans .
Holger Rønnow, owner of the mink farm, on his farm, where he is forced by the government to slaughter all mink en masse on November 6, 2020 in Herning, Denmark.
Ole Jensen | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Data from animal rights group Humane Society International places Denmark as the world’s second-largest exporter of mink fur, behind China. He says Denmark accounted for around half of the 35 million mink raised in Europe in 2018.
As of June, 214 human cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Denmark with variants associated with farmed mink, the WHO said, including 12 cases with a single variant, reported on November 5.
All of these 12 cases were found to be from northern Jutland, Denmark, and those infected were between the ages of 7 and 79.
The WHO said early observations suggested that the clinical presentation, severity and transmission among those infected were similar to other circulating coronavirus strains.
WHO has since launched a review of biosecurity measures in mink farms around the world.
Too early to “draw conclusions”
The coronavirus is constantly evolving and, to date, there is no evidence to suggest that the mutation identified among Danish mink farms poses an increased danger to people.
As of Monday morning, more than 50.3 million people are believed to have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 1.25 million linked deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Drugmakers and research centers are striving to provide a safe and effective vaccine with the goal of ending the coronavirus pandemic.
Small bottles labeled with a “COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe are visible in this illustration taken on April 10, 2020.
In view of Ruvic | Reuters
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergency program, said on Friday it was “a long, long way” from understanding whether the virus mutation could have implications for diagnostics or vaccines.
WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan agreed.
“I think we have to wait and see what the implications are, but I don’t think we should draw any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact the effectiveness of the vaccine or not,” said Swaminathan Friday.
“We have no evidence at this time that this is the case. But we’ll keep you posted as we get more information. “