COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A new, mutated strain of the novel coronavirus stemming from mink farms in Denmark is "most likely" extinct, the health ministry said on Thursday, amid fears the new strain could compromise COVID-19 vaccines.
"No further cases of mink variant with cluster 5 have been detected since Sept. 15, which is why the State Serum Institute assesses that this variant has most likely become extinct," the ministry said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, Denmark ordered all farmed mink in the country culled to curb widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 on farms, a situation exacerbated by the discovery of a mutated variant, which authorities said showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies.
On Wednesday, the Nordic country's Food and Agriculture Minister resigned following the admission by the government it did not have the proper legal basis behind the cull order, making it a potential constitutional breach.
Opposition parties in Denmark are calling for Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to step down too, saying she was ultimately responsible.
Frederiksen has apologised publicly, but maintains the decision to cull all mink was sound and based on an assessment by health authorities.
Based on improved infection numbers in the northern part of Denmark, home to most of the country's mink farms, the Health Ministry on Thursday also announced it would ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago to curb the spread of the virus.
Mink have shown a particular susceptibility to infection from the coronavirus, a problem inflamed by the fact that mink are bred in large numbers and in close living conditions, according to the World Health Organization.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)
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