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Poland looks into coronavirus risks at mink farms

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Poland will conduct coronavirus tests among its farmed minks and check whether farm workers and their families have been infected with COVID-19, following the findings of a mutated virus among the animals in Denmark.

Danish authorities last week embarked on a plan to eliminate Denmark’s entire population of 17 million mink, one of the world’s biggest, saying the new strain could move to humans and evade future COVID-19 vaccines.

Poland’s mink population is roughly half the size of the Danish one.

“The priority is to check the state of health of animals on farms,” Poland’s agriculture ministry said in a statement.

It has ordered the Chief Veterinary Inspectorate to test minks in various parts of Poland and sanitary authorities are checking whether infections have occurred among the workers raising the animals for their pelts or among their families.

Veterinary authorities said they had prepared animal testing procedures and infrastructure in May, but did not specify whether tests had been undertaken.

Some representatives of mink farm owners’ lobby groups said tests had been conducted and had shown no coronavirus infections, while others said minks have not yet been tested.

Asked about testing and potential coronavirus infections among minks, the Inspectorate said “No such cases have been identified”, in an emailed response to Reuters. It gave no further details about whether the animals have been tested.

“We all know that this virus does not exist in Polish farms,” Tadeusz Jakubowski, a veterinarian and a director at the Polish Association of Breeders and Producers of Fur Animals said.

“I suspect that someone is using coronavirus as a pretext to devastate the breeding in Denmark, without a scientific reason, he added.

A non-government organisation, Otwarte Klatki (Open cages), has called for regular COVID-19 tests among minks in Poland.

“It is hard to believe that the problem does not come up in Poland sooner or later. Or it already exists but we do not know about it,” Pawel Rawicki from the Open Cages said.

China, Denmark and Poland are the largest mink producers globally, with 60 million killed annually for their fur, Animal rights group Humane Society International – United Kingdom says.

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