After killing around 13 million minks, about two-thirds of the country’s entire mink livestock, the Danish Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that the mutated version of Covid-19 detected among a small percentage of the mink population seems to have died out.
According to a study conducted by the Danish Center for Infectious Diseases, not a single case of the mutated strain being transmitted from a mink to a human has been documented since September 15.
In addition, a Danish scientist reported last week that the “new” strain of coronavirus was actually already discovered among mink in the Netherlands several months ago, and that no cases of transmission to humans had been associated with it. Furthermore, mutations of viruses as they jump from one species to another are commonplace, experts say.
Adding to the national embarrassment and scandal is the fact that the Danish government has now admitted that it lacked any legal justification for ordering the mass cull that applied to every single mink in the country.
When the news first broke of suspected mink-to-human coronavirus transmission, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that she had made the decision to kill all minks “with a heavy heart,” but insisted that although “we have a great commitment to our population … we have a greater responsibility to the rest of the world.”
However, after the government admitted that it only had the authority to order the killing of animals whose infection had been confirmed, as well as all those within eight kilometers (five miles) of those infected, the Agriculture Minister resigned in disgrace.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mogens Jensen told Danish public television that, “I no longer have the necessary support from the parties in parliament. I must tender my resignation.” Opposition MPs are calling for the Prime Minister to resign too, and for an independent commission of inquiry to be established to investigate the affair.
The police and the military had been deployed to help Denmark’s approximately 1,100 mink farmers kill their animals – by placing them in boxes and gassing them. In addition, farmers were offered a 20 Krona ($3.20) bonus for each animal they killed quickly, the Financial Times reports.
Images of hundreds of dead minks squashed on Denmark’s roads after falling off trucks spread on social media. When the country’s incinerators could no longer cope with the sheer number of animals they were expected to process, minks were buried in military installations and locals started to complain about the stench.
Unsurprisingly, polls now show that public confidence in the Danish government has plummeted.