Poland finds first case of COVID-19 in mink

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland has found its first case of COVID-19 in mink, the agriculture ministry said, raising fears of costly culls in an industry that counts over 350 farms in the country.

With new variants of the coronavirus threatening global efforts to get the pandemic under control, authorities in several countries have begun mass culls of the animals due to fears of a mutated strain of the illness being transmitted to humans.

Late on Sunday the ministry said in a statement it had been informed by veterinary inspectors on Saturday of a case in Kartuzy county in northern Poland.

“I hope this is a single case, although we must take all measures to limit possible transmission of the virus,” Deputy Health Minister Waldemar Kraska told local broadcaster Radio Gdansk on Monday, adding that all mink at the affected farm would be culled.

Denmark, the world’s top exporter of mink furs, ordered a cull of the country’s entire population of some 17 million mink in 2020, and in January announced it would compensate farmers with up to 19 billion Danish crowns ($3.09 billion).

In a statement sent to state-run news agency PAP, representatives of the Polish fur industry said the state was not offering any compensation for culled animals, and that they would launch a class action lawsuit demanding damages.

The agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The General Veterinary Inspectorate said in a statement it was investigating whether the farm had followed sanitary regulations and that possible compensation or penalties would depend on its findings.

The Regional Veterinary Inspectorate in Gdansk said four samples from the farm had tested positive on Saturday, and that 5,845 mink were in the area affected by the outbreak.

Poland is one of the world’s top producers of mink fur, with 354 farms, containing around 6 million mink.

($1 = 6.1444 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz, Editing by William Maclean and Steve Orlofsky