Officials in the Netherlands said yesterday that 61 people on two flights from Cape Town to South Africa tested positive for Covid upon arrival in the Netherlands.
Dutch health authorities are conducting further testing early Saturday to see if any of the infections are with the recently discovered Omicron coronavirus variant, which is “extremely likely”, according to various Dutch media.
Around 600 passengers arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on the two KLM flights on Friday and then faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns over the new virus variant.
The Dutch health ministry said early Saturday 61 tests had come back positive.
“Travelers with a positive test result will be placed in isolation at a hotel at or near Schiphol,” health authorities said in a statement, published by Reuters.
“Of the positive test results, we are researching as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of concern, now named ‘Omicron’.”
The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa early on Friday. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge determined that passengers already en route to the Netherlands would have to undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.
Officials in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy as well as the UK have confirmed the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has appeared in their respective countries, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread.
The UK on Saturday tightened its rules on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two cases.
Nearly two years since the start of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert.
Because of fears that the new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns around the world that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will persist for far longer than hoped.
Many have already imposed travel restrictions on flights from southern Africa as they seek to buy time to assess whether the Omicron variant is more transmissible than the current dominant delta variant.