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27 Nov, 2021 00:19

Dozens of travelers from Omicron hotspot Covid-positive on arrival in EU

Dozens of travelers from Omicron hotspot Covid-positive on arrival in EU

As growing fears of the Omicron variant trigger global travel bans, at least 61 of the 600 arrivals from South Africa tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport have turned out to be positive for Covid-19.

On Friday, the Dutch government imposed a ban on arrivals from South Africa and several other neighboring countries, citing fears of a new and reportedly more contagious coronavirus variant.

More than 600 people on two flights were already en route to Schiphol when the decision was made, and special testing sites were set up at the airport to deal with them.

Initial testing late on Friday revealed that there were 15 coronavirus cases among the arrivals, but by Saturday, the number of infected had grown to 61, the Dutch health authorities said in a statement, adding that they were continuing to obtain samples from the travelers.

“Of the positive test results, we are researching as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of concern, now named ‘Omicron’,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, passengers on KLM flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg have been complaining that they were obliged to remain on board the aircraft for hours while the testing went on.

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the B.1.1.529 strain of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Botswana, to be a new variant of concern. Though the WHO cautioned against the imposition of travel bans, a number of governments – including those of the EU, the US, and Russia – have placed restrictions on travelers arriving from 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 flights from South Africa who tested negative will be allowed to leave but must quarantine for five days, the Dutch authorities said. Those who tested positive will be transferred to a quarantine hotel.

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