Dutch health officials said on Sunday 13 people who recently arrived in the Netherlands on flights from South Africa tested positive for the new variant of the omicron coronavirus.
The passengers were part of a group of 61 people who tested positive for coronavirus after arriving in Amsterdam on Friday.
The announcement came shortly after Australia said two cases of the variant had been found in passengers who had recently arrived in Sydney.
Omicron is the fifth option of concern introduced by WHO. It was first discovered in recent weeks in South Africa, where there is an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases.
There are about 30 mutations in the spike protein of the virus, and scientists fear that some of them may facilitate transmission of the virus. But scientists don’t yet know if the omicron is actually more infectious or dangerous.
Cases of this variant have also been found in Israel, Hong Kong and several European countries.
Concerns over this option have prompted many countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil and the European Union, to restrict or ban travel from southern African countries.
The South African government called the travel restrictions “hasty” and raised concerns about the impact on businesses.
The top US expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would not be surprised if the omicron variant is already in the United States.
In South Africa, where the omicron variant was found, approximately 35% of the adult population is vaccinated. The numbers are even lower for most of the African continent.
Health experts warn that vaccine inequalities will create a breeding ground for viral mutations.
Information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.