Amsterdam fears dozens of Covid infections on flights from Omicron hotspots

As growing fears of the Omicron variant triggered a travel ban, 15 of the 110 arrivals from South Africa tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport turned up positive for Covid-19. Another 500 from two flights still need to be tested.

The Dutch government on Friday imposed a ban on arrivals from South Africa and several other neighboring countries, citing the fears of a new and allegedly more contagious coronavirus variant. More than 600 people on two flights were already en route for Schiphol, however, and special testing sites were set up to deal with them

Of the 110 passengers tested so far, 15 have tested positive for Covid-19, the Dutch outlet NOS reported on Friday evening. 

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Based on those results, the public health officials expect a 13.6% positive rate on both flights, or about 85 passengers, the outlet added. However, it was unknown which variant of the virus the test detected.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus – first detected in Botswana – as a new variant of concern and dubbed it ‘Omicron.’ Though the WHO cautioned against travel bans, a number of governments – including the EU, US, and Russia – have since restricted entry to nationals of Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Schiphol was Europe’s third-busiest airport prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, handling 71.7 million passengers in 2019. Passengers from the two South African flights who tested negative will be allowed to leave, but must quarantine for another five days, the Dutch authorities said. Those who tested positive will be transferred to a nearby quarantine hotel.

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