Dutch health officials said on Saturday they had detected 61 COVID-19 cases in people who flew on Friday from South Africa and are now conducting further tests to see if anyone is infected with the new Omicron variant. is infected.
The cases were discovered among nearly 600 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on two flights on Friday before the Dutch government halted air traffic from southern Africa due to concerns over the variant.
Dutch health officials said on Saturday they would also like to contact travelers who had arrived from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe from Monday and urge them to undergo a test as soon as possible.
Passengers on Friday’s flights were isolated from other passengers and those who tested positive are being kept in isolation at a hotel near the airport.
A health ministry spokesman said it would not be known until after Saturday whether any travelers were infected with the new version.
A spokesman for KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France, said the airline was trying to determine who as of Friday morning to stop people with COVID-19 infections on flights departing from Cape Town and Johannesburg. rules were in force.
The rules on the company’s website state that passengers were required to submit a negative COVID-19 “rapid antigen” test result 24 hours prior to departure, but were not required to show proof of vaccination.
Paula Zimmermann, a Dutch photographer who returned from a family trip to South Africa on Friday morning, said the condition of passengers on the planes was chaotic, as they were kept waiting in the tarmac and terminals for hours.
Zimmerman was told that her test was negative at 4 a.m., about 18 hours after landing in Amsterdam, but said she then learned she was standing next to a man she knew had contracted an infection. has tested positive for
“It was really weird. There was no coordination. There were very few people and really no one who controlled.”
She said several infected passengers after spending hours on a flight left Zimmerman worried for days to come.
“I’ve been told that they expect a lot of people to test positive after five days. It’s a little scary thought that you’re on a plane with so many people who have tested positive.”
The Dutch flight ban does not mean that all flights from southern Africa to the Netherlands are halted, as Dutch nationals are allowed to return home, while EU citizens are allowed to enter their home countries in transit.
Medical staff, airline crew and people in extreme need are also still allowed to travel. KLM will continue flights to the region, but passengers need to be in quarantine for at least five days upon arrival in the Netherlands.
The new version has been traced to the same way that many European countries are grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The Dutch government on Friday announced the closure of bars, restaurants and most shops during the night as it tries to stem a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is swallowing up its health care system.