Denmark’s government has said a temporary ban on mink breeding will expire on January 1, allowing the industry to resume but at a ”significantly reduced” level compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.

The Danish government nearly two years ago ordered a cull of millions of minks to minimise the risk of the small mammals retransmitting the virus.

The Scandinavian country banned mink farming in November 2020 to contain a mutated version of the coronavirus that could spread to people.

The Environment and Food Ministry said health officials now think “there is a limited risk to public health by resuming significantly reduced mink production and by introducing infection prevention measures”.

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Most mink fur is exported to China (Ben Birchall/PA)

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

Food, agriculture and fisheries minister Rasmus Prehn and institute officials plan to meet later with representatives of the Danish mink industry to “review the infection prevention measures for the industry”.

The government said veterinary and health authorities have drawn up a model with requirements for handling Covid-19 in mink herds that 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 main mink fur exporters, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year.

Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounted for 40% of global mink production. Most of its exports went to China and Hong Kong.