Do any mink in Poland have COVID-19? New findings raise doubts

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FILE PHOTO: A mink is seen at the farm of the representative of the Panhellenic association of fur animal breeders Konstantinos Chionos in the village of Mikrokastro

WARSAW (Reuters) - Veterinary inspectors say they have found no evidence of COVID-19 among mink at a farm in northern Poland where other scientists reported finding eight cases.

The National Veterinary Research Institute said it had carried out tests on mink in the same part of the farm where the Medical University of Gdansk said on Nov. 24 it had found the eight cases, but its own tests came up negative.

"One thing is certain - the test results are divergent," Krzysztof Niemczuk, director general at the institute, told Reuters by email. "The veterinary inspection treats this farm as virus free."

A spokeswoman for the Medical University of Gdansk said it stood by its findings.

Pawel Rawicki, a representative of animal rights organisation Otwarte Klatki (Open Cages), said it was "unlikely that the coronavirus has bypassed Poland's farms."

The government has not said how it will respond to the possibility that some mink have COVID-19 in Poland, a major producer of mink fur.

Poland started carrying out coronavirus tests among farmed mink and checking workers after a mutated virus was found in farmed mink in Denmark, leading to a nationwide cull there.

Veterinary and sanitary authorities said 18 coronavirus cases had been identified among mink farm workers in Poland since the start of the pandemic, but that it was unlikely that they were infected by the animals.

COVID-19 has been found in mink in Denmark, Greece, Sweden and Lithuania.

Animal rights has become an increasingly contentious issue for the ruling Law and Justice party since it proposed a law this year to ban fur farming but later shelved it.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, Editing by Timothy Heritage)