Dutch find 61 COVID-19 cases on South Africa flight, believe some are Omicron variant – National

The Dutch health authorities said on Saturday that they had detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people who flew from South Africa on Friday and believe that at least some infections are of the new omicron variant.

The cases were discovered among 624 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on two flights on Friday before the Dutch government restricted air traffic from southern Africa due to concerns over the variant.

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Omicron COVID-19 variant leads to travel restrictions, containment efforts

“In a number of the people tested, the omicron variant is believed to have been found,” the Dutch Institute of Health (RIVM) said in a statement. A spokesman for RIVM said it was “almost certain” that the cases were of the new variant, but further testing was needed to be completely sure.

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RIVM will not disclose how many cases it suspects to be of the omicron variant.

The passengers from Friday’s flight were kept separate from other travelers, and those who tested positive are kept in isolation at a hotel near the airport.

A spokesman for KLM, the Dutch division of Air France, said the passengers on the plane had either tested negative or shown evidence of vaccination before boarding planes in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Click to play video: 'Global National: 26 Nov'

Global National: 26 November

Global National: 26 November

“It goes too far to say we are surprised” by the high number of cases, a KLM spokesman said. “But we have no explanation.”

The spokesman said it was possible that many of the positive cases were among those vaccinated, or that an unusual number of people developed infections after testing negatively.

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Dutch health authorities sought to contact about 5,000 other passengers who have traveled from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday to urge them to take a COVID-19 test as soon as possible.

‘REALLY strange’

Paula Zimmerman, a Dutch photographer returning from a family visit to South Africa on Friday morning, said the situation of the passengers on the planes was chaotic as they were kept waiting on the tarmac and in the terminal for hours.

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Zimmerman was told she had tested negative at. 4 in the morning, almost 18 hours after landing in Amsterdam, but said she found out she was standing right next to a man who knew he had tested positive for an infection.

“It was really strange. There was no coordination. There were too few people and there was really no one taking control.”

After spending hours on a flight that likely had many infected passengers, Zimmerman made anxiety for the coming days, she said.

“I have been told that they expect many more people to test positive after five days. It’s a little scary to think that you’ve been on a plane with a lot of people who have tested positive. ”

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Dutch citizens are still allowed to return home from southern Africa, while EU citizens are allowed to travel into transit to their home countries.

Click to play video: 'Scientists worried Omicron could be the worst COVID-19 variant yet'

Researchers worried that Omicron could be the worst COVID-19 variant yet

Researchers worried that Omicron could be the worst COVID-19 variant yet

Medical staff, airline crews and people in urgent need are also still allowed to travel. KLM will continue flights to the region, but all travelers must now test negative before departure and then be quarantined for at least five days upon arrival in the Netherlands.

The new variant has been discovered, just as many European countries are struggling with an increase in cases of coronavirus.

The Dutch government announced on Friday the closure of bars, restaurants and most shops at night as it tries to stem a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases flooding its healthcare system.


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