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MINKS

Denmark to exhume millions of minks culled over virus

Four million minks culled in Denmark over a mutant coronavirus strain will be dug up next year to prevent pollution, the government said Sunday in the latest twist to a long-running saga.

Denmark to exhume millions of minks culled over virus
Culled mink being buried in November. Photo: Morten Stricker/Jysk Fynske Medier/Ritzau Scanpix

If parliament agrees, the mink carcasses will be dug up and burned in six months' time once the risk of infection is completely passed, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

“This way, we avoid the mink being treated as dangerous biological waste, a solution that's never been used before,” the ministry said.

Denmark dug two mass graves in November on military sites near Holstebro and Karup in the country's west.

But under fire for its management of the “mink crisis”, the government was forced to admit the pits were an environmental risk to the water table and nearby lakes.

The ministry said that the danger of pollution was not urgent, and that “the environment authority is following the situation closely,” allowing the delay in digging up the minks until May.

Denmark, the world's top mink fur exporter, said in November it would cull its entire stock of 15 million minks because of a mutant coronavirus strain that could threaten the effectiveness of upcoming human vaccines.

Copenhagen said on November 19th that the “Cluster 5” mutation had been wiped out, and so far mink are the only animal confirmed to be capable both of contracting the strain and of passing it to humans.

But the government's decision became a political crisis when it turned out it had no legal basis for the cull.

The agriculture minister resigned and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen apologised.

A bill that would ban mink husbandry until 2022 is set to become law on Monday.

READ ALSO: 'We're in shock': Denmark's mink farmers despair as livelihood dies with animals

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COVID-19

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.” 

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