On Friday, 61 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19. According to Dutch health authorities, they were conducting further testing early Saturday to see if any of the infections are with the recently discovered Omicron coronavirus variant.
A report by Reuters said 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, “Travelers with a positive test result will be placed in isolation at a hotel at or near Schiphol,” health authorities said in a statement.
“Of the positive test results, we are researching as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of concern, now named ‘Omicron’.”
All air travel from southern Africa were early on Friday banned by the Dutch government. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge determined that passengers already en route to the Netherlands would have to undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.
“Vigorous applause because there is a BUS that has come to take us … somewhere,” tweeted New York Times journalist Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on the flight from Johannesburg who later said she had tested negative.
“Bus to a hall to a huge queue. I can see COVID testers in bright blue PPE far on the distance. Still no snacks for the sad babies,” she added in a second tweet.
The positive cases were being analysed by an academic medical hospital to determine whether they are the new strain, a spokesperson for the health authorities in Kennemerland, the Dutch region that oversees Schiphol, said.
Also on Friday, the Dutch government separately announced the nighttime closure of bars, restaurants and most stores as it tries to curb a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is stretching its healthcare system.