UK hospitals have been told to isolate suspected "mink Covid" patients as fears of the mutant virus spreading escalate, it has been claimed.
NHS staff on the frontline have been told to treat coronavirus patients who have recently returned from Denmark, separately in specialist centres for gene-testing.
Mink farmers in Denmark have been ordered by the Danish government to cull their livestock after a mutation of Covid-19 – feared to be resistant to a vaccine – had been found in 12 people infected by minks.
The significance of any variant strain and its effect on humans will remain unclear until a proper study has been carried out.
As the world's largest mink fur exporter, Denmark produces an estimated 17 million furs per year.
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The Danish government has ordered the cull of all 15 million minks bred in the country's 1,139 mink farms after being linked to at least 214 human cases.
Human-to-human transmission is since thought to have occurred.
The World Health Organisation said Covid-19 cases linked to mink farms have been detected in six countries so far.
In a letter to NHS bosses, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, has told doctors, nurses and GPs to take “immediate actions” against the new type of coronavirus, the Telegraph reported.
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The letter instructs frontline workers to isolate coronavirus patients who have recently returned from Denmark, and to treat them in specialist centres and have them gene-tested.
Staff were warned the new virus strain appeared to show “less sensitivity for neutralising antibodies” and therefore greater resistance to a vaccine, the report added.
Freight drivers who have recently travelled through Denmark and are not residents of the UK will be turned away from the British border to prevent a UK outbreaks of the mink related strain, it has been said.
Passenger planes and ships travelling from Denmark, and any accompanying freight, will not be allowed to dock at English ports under the new rules which came into force at 4am on Sunday.
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And hauliers who have been in or through Denmark in the last fortnight will also be denied entry on arrival.
It follows the exercising of immigration powers on Saturday morning, which prevented all non-British national or resident travellers who have been in or transited through Denmark in the last 14 days from entering the UK.
The exemption for non-UK resident freight drivers has been removed, while anyone who is allowed to enter and has travelled to Denmark must isolate for 14 days, along with members of their household.
The Department for Transport said: "The move follows the release of further information from health authorities in Denmark reporting widespread outbreaks of coronavirus (Covid-19) in mink farms, with a variant strain of the virus spreading to some local communities."
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The travel ban and extra requirements will be reviewed after a week, the department added.
A statement from Logistics UK said: "In order to ensure the integrity of the UK's supply chain, it is vital that our HGV drivers can operate safely, and our members will ensure that their drivers follow all government advice and isolate for 14 days if they are arriving from Denmark.
"At the same time, logistics is an agile industry and importers can switch between transport modes to ensure that products still arrive at the end customer.
"In any case much of the ferry transport between the UK and Denmark is sent in unaccompanied trailers, so drivers simply collect their loads from ports, with no need to travel across the border.
"The industry will continue to maintain high levels of vigilance and follow all necessary health protocols to protect the UK."
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