A new mutation of COVID-19 known as ‘cluster 5’ has been identified within Denmarks Mink population. With the NHS preparing to quarantine ‘Mink COVID’, we look at whether this is something we need to be concerned about.
Denmark is one of the world largest producers of Mink-fur pelts, with Danish Mink-farms exporting up to 17 million furs every year. Mink is one of the few animals where, like bats and cats, human-to-animal COVID-19 has been identified.
Cases of COVID-19 in farmed mink has been reported in Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the USA. It is still unknown which animal COVID-19 originated from, although it is believed to have originated from Chinese bats.
The ‘cluster 5’ mutation
Danish authorities first detected ‘mink-related’ cases of COVID-19 early in the summer. Since June, Denmarks ‘State Serum Institute’ (SSI) found 214 COVID-19 cases with ‘Mink-related strains’ in the Northern Jutland area of the country.
The COVID-19 variant ‘cluster 5’ was found in 12 people on 5 different Mink farms. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the country will cull the majority of its 17 million mink population, and imposed restrictions on the Northern Jutland area.
The SSI believes the cluster 5 variant is no more dangerous than other Coronavirus; However, the variant is unlikely to respond to the COVID-19 vaccines currently under development.
The World Health Organisation says ‘actions taken by the Danish authorities will limit the spread’ of mink-COVID variants, and called for ‘detailed analyses and scientific studies’ into the COVID-variant.
Political reaction to ‘cluster 5’
In the UK, the minkCOVID mutation has led to a typically political overreaction.
Over the weekend, UK Government announced restrictions on travel between England and Denmark; Then, on Monday, Scottish FM Nicola Sturgeon announced restrictions on travel between Scotland and Denmark.
The Mirror also (comically) reported the NHS was preparing to ‘isolate suspected ‘mink Covid’ patients amid mutant virus fears‘. At this point we need to stop and ask, is this something we need to be worried about? The answer is No.
At present no cases of mink-related COVID-19 has been identified in the UK. AND, Denmark has placed firm restrictions on areas where the virus was detected.
The biggest risk posed by Cluster 5 is with the development of vaccines, as none of the vaccines currently in development targets the new mutation.
Reactions – ‘cluster 5’ vs 20A.EU1
The biggest point of concern in the Mink-COVID story is not with the virus itself, but the media and political reaction that surrounds it. British Leaders have all jumped onto the mink-COVID story, closed borders and took firm action to head this mutation off at the pass; however, we have to ask why didn’t we see this same reaction to the 20A.EU1 COVID-mutation that entered the UK over the summer?
British officials knew about the Spanish 20A.EU1 COVID mutation in June, although nothing was done to stop it entering the UK; Government allowed holidaymakers to continue travelling between Spain and the UK.
By September almost 80% of the UK’s COVID-19 cases were caused by 20A.EU1 variant, yet the borders remained open! If we had seen the same reaction to 20A.EU1 as we have seen for mink-COVID, there might never have been a second wave.
The reaction to Mink-COVID is not a ‘dead-cat’, the fact is I am not sure how to describe it. When we look at the facts that underpin this story sure, mink-COVID sounds pretty sensational, but in reality, it poses the lowest of low risk to the UK.
Anyway, we already let the more virulent Spanish mutation in months ago!