All travel to the UK from Denmark is being banned amid mounting concern over an outbreak in the country of a mutation of coronavirus linked to mink, the Guardian understands.
Downing Street had already taken action to remove Denmark from the travel corridor this weekend, forcing arrivals to quarantine for two weeks from Sunday at 4am.
But following a Covid committee meeting on Friday afternoon, the UK government is halting all inbound travel from Denmark. It is unclear precisely when the ban will come into effect although the government is understood to be planning to formally announce it, meaning it is likely to happen imminently.
The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, is understood to be particularly concerned by developments in Denmark. It follows the discovery of a new strain of the disease in mink bred for fur in Denmark’s northern regions which has spread to humans. It is feared the new strain could prove to be more resistant against a vaccine.
Anyone who has been in Denmark over the past fortnight will be asked to isolate, including their household. Meanwhile, NHS Test and Trace will prioritise contacting all those who have recently returned from Denmark.
Danish government experts have insisted they are acting with an “abundance of caution” in imposing restrictions in the northern Jutland region in response to the outbreak and ordering the cull of 17 million mink on its commercial farms.
Several variants of Covid-19 that have infected mink have been detected in more than 200 human cases in Denmark, but it has been the one cluster of 12 cases that has caused particular concern.
The country’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, had said the measures were being put in place since the mutation of the virus could potentially have an impact on the efficacy of vaccines in development, but the experts stressed on Friday there was as yet no hard evidence to suggest it would.
Related: Denmark tightens lockdown in north over mink Covid outbreak
The World Health Organization also offered a circumspect assessment of the risk from the new mink variant. Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, said on Friday it was too early to jump to conclusions about the implications of mutations in the virus found in mink.
“We need to wait and see what the implications are but I don’t think we should come to any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy,” she said. “We don’t have any evidence at the moment that it would.”
Frederiksen’s comments that the strain “could pose a risk that future vaccines won’t work”, however, attracted international attention as she called for immediate action, adding that the “eyes of the world are on us”.
Dr Tyra Grove Krause of the Danish State Serum Institute told reporters on Friday that