Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what evaluation has been carried out into the risk of a mutated form of COVID-19 from mink. [Priority Written]
Minister of Health: The public health implications of recent findings of mink-specific variants of SARS-CoV-2 in Danish mink farms are being assessed urgently at international levels and by national public health authorities. The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) is working with the Danish public health agency on the human implications for public health and has produced a Rapid Risk Assessment available at:
In the UK Public Health England are working with departments and agencies to assess the public health risks. A zoonosis risk assessment is in preparation and is expected to be published shortly.
In the meantime my Department has taken urgent steps to minimise the risk of this strain being imported into Northern Ireland. Specifically, the International Travel Regulations have been amended on 9 November to restrict travellers from Denmark. The Chief Medical Officer has also issued precautionary advice to the HSC on the appropriate investigation and management of those presenting to the health service with a travel history to Denmark.
My Department and the Public Health Agency are working with their counterparts in Ireland and taking practical steps to minimise any risk associated with travellers arriving from Denmark and coming to Northern Ireland through Ireland.