A NEW Covid strain passed from mink to humans would have “grave” consequences if it were to spread as it might not respond to a possible vaccine, Matt Hancock said today.
The Health Secretary told MPs this afternoon that ministers acted “quickly” last week to try and clamp down on any possible cases from Denmark reaching the UK.
Travel to Denmark is banned and anyone coming back must isolate for two weeks, after a strain of the virus was found to have passed from minks to humans.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty made the call last week after the concerning news from Denmark was laid bare.
People who are in hospital and have recently returned from the country must also be treated in isolation.
Mr Hancock today warned that the variant “did not fully respond to Covid-19 antibodies” and therefore may have potential knock-on effects on a future vaccine.
He told the House of Commons: “Although the chance of this variant becoming widespread is low, the consequences should that happen would be grave.
“I know these are serious steps and I understand the consequences for people, but I think the whole House will understand why we had to act so quickly and decisively. Be in no doubt, we will do what needs to be done to protect this country.”
The UK has banned all lorry drivers, flights and ships from Denmark after an outbreak at fur farms.
Passenger planes and ships travelling from Denmark, as well as any accompanying freight, will not be allowed to dock at English ports.
And hauliers who have been in or through Denmark in the last fortnight will also be denied entry on arrival – and drivers must change over.
Around five new strains of the virus have been found in Denmark.
And already, another five countries have reported coronavirus outbreaks linked to mink – the US, Spain, Italy, Sweden and The Netherlands.
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said about half of the 783 human cases reported in north Denmark related to a strain of the virus that originated in the mink farms.
And the country’s prime minister Mette Frederiksen said there were now fears that the new, mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future vaccine.
In seven northern municipalities sport and cultural activities have been suspended, public transportation has been stopped and regional borders have been closed.
A mini-lockdown has been ordered with restaurants, schools and other facilities shut.
Last week Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reiterated concerns that the new strain could affect a vaccine.
In an interview on Sky, he said: “The concern is that when you see a mutated version of coronavirus, if it spread, it would undermine the ability to make an effective vaccine in the future.”
Denmark is the world’s largest mink fur exporter and produces an estimated 17 million furs per year.
The Danish government has ordered the cull of all of its minks bred in the country’s 1,139 mink farms.
Did you miss our previous article…