COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Danish government says a temporary ban on mink breeding will end Jan. 1, allowing the country’s mink production to resume but at a “significantly reduced” level than before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Danish government almost two years ago ordered the culling of millions of minks to minimize the risk of re-transmission of the virus by small mammals. The Scandinavian country banned mink farming in November 2020 to contain a mutated version of the coronavirus that could spread to humans.

The Ministry of Environment and Food said health officials now believe there is “limited risk to public health from resuming the significant decline in mink production and introducing infection prevention measures.”

The government said the decision to lift the temporary ban was based on an assessment by the Statens Serum Institute, a government agency that maps the spread of the disease in Denmark.

Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Rasmus Prehn and representatives of the institute plan to meet later on Friday with representatives of the Danish mink industry to “consider infection prevention measures for the industry”.

The government said veterinary and health authorities have drawn up a model of requirements to combat COVID-19 in mink herds, which breeders must “implement and comply with in order to be able to keep mink again after the turn of the year”.

Denmark was one of the world’s major exporters of mink fur, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year. Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the world’s mink production. Most of the exports went to China and Hong Kong.

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