The Bulgarian health authorities said on Friday (6 November) they have ordered mass PCR testing for COVID-19 of people in the vicinity of the two mink farms in the country, following the recent mink-related health scare in Denmark. Chief State Health Inspector Angel Kunchev announced the news exclusively to EURACTIV Bulgaria.
The initiative came after the announcement by Denmark that minks had become infected with the coronavirus, which mutates in them and is then transmitted to humans. The newly mutated virus has the potential to compromise the effects of vaccines currently under development.
The largest mink farm in Bulgaria is located in the village of Madjerito near Stara Zagora. As of last year, 130,000 minks were bred there annually. Their skin is exported at a price between 25 and 30 euros per unit.
Bulgarians became aware of the existence of mink farms after an illegal mass grave of skinned minks was discovered near Sliven, east-central Bulgaria, last summer. The authorities never found who was behind the gruesome act, which also threatened the environment in the area. TV footage has shown atrocious breeding conditions in a nearby mink farm.
At the end of 2019, a bill was introduced aimed at banning the breeding of animals whose meat is not consumed, but it was not adopted. In the wake of the pandemic, however, mink is proving to be a serious problem.
On Thursday, it became clear that Denmark will cull 17 million minks due to a mutation in the coronavirus in animals, which is also transmitted to humans. These strains show reduced sensitivity to antibodies, which potentially reduces the efficacy of future vaccines. That is why the country announced strict new lockdown rules on Thursday in the north of the country.
For Denmark’s mink pelt industry, which racked up exports of around $800 million last year and employs 4,000 people, the cull could amount to a death knell. The industry association for Danish breeders called the move a “black day for Denmark”.
The United Kingdom’s Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Friday (6 November) that people arriving in the country from Denmark will need to self-isolate for 14 days, starting on Saturday, as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]