Variation of COVID-19 Halts North Sea Passenger Ferries from Denmark
Reports of a variation of the coronavirus that is spreading in Denmark from animals to humans raised alarm and prompted the suspension of most shipping traffic from Denmark while scientists investigated further. Passenger ferry service is being suspended departing Denmark for the UK and into Scandinavia while cargo traffic is continuing with restrictions.
Growing concern over the reports that this variation of the virus was spreading from animal farms to humans prompted the World Health Organization to issue a disease outbreak statement on November 6. The WHO says there have been 214 cases of the virus since June associated with the practice of mink farming in Denmark and twelve of those cases were a unique variant identified in September and reported last week. The scientists believe that the minks were infected following exposure from infected humans and act as a reservoir passing the virus between them, and back to humans. Human-to-human transmission of this variant is also possible.
The WHO also reported that five additional countries, including the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy, and the United States have also reported cases of the virus in farmed minks. The scientists are continuing to explore the mutation of the virus while also reporting that it was common for a virus such as this to mutate.
Danish officials announced that they would immediately be enacted additional public health measures and limiting travel in the areas where this variation of the virus had emerged. Initially, they also planned a large culling of farmed mink, which reportedly numbers more than 17 million in the country, but recent media reports suggest that Denmark will not be proceeding with the large-scale culling.
In addition to the Danish restrictions, the UK also announced that it would introduce travel bans for all individuals to and from Denmark effective November 7 and November 8. Most individuals along with ships and airplanes are being banned from entering the UK while a small segment of individuals can still arrive but must quarantine at home for 14 days.
DFDS, one of the largest shipping companies operating on the North Sea from Denmark, had previously reduced service on its ferries sailing to Oslo. The company laid up one of two vessels sailing on the route late in October. DFDS noted that the new restrictions only apply to passengers and not cargo which it intends to continue to operate to the UK. However, they will only be able to transport unaccompanied cargo, meaning that units that operated with drivers can no longer be accepted and must be converted to unaccompanied units. Any driver that has been in Denmark in the last 14 days is prohibited from sailing.
Also, Stena, which operates ferries between Denmark and Sweden, announced as of November 9 it would only be transporting cargo from northern Denmark due to the restrictions. No passengers will be accepted on the route between Frederikshavn in Denmark and Gothenburg in Sweden between November 9 and December 3. Stena, however, reports that truck drivers can continue to travel on its ferries and that passengers can travel between Halmstad and Grenaa, which are not affected by the new restrictions and will continue to operate with both passengers and freight.