Omicron Covid variant likely in Netherlands; Recent southern Africa travelers should get tested
It is likely that the Omicron variant originating from southern Africa is already here, field epidemiologist Amrish Baidjoe said in the NOS Radio 1 Journaal on Saturday.
On Friday, two planes from South Africa landed at Schiphol. It later turned out that 61 out of 600 passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus.
That same day a travel ban was instated on all non-EU citizens from Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The GGD urged all travelers from these countries to get tested for the coronavirus as soon as possible.
The travel ban was extended to travelers from Mozambique on Saturday. Dutch citizens can still enter the Netherlands, although they must enter quarantine upon arrival.
Baidjoe doubted that the travel ban would prevent the spread of the Omicronvariant in the Netherlands. "We are an incredibly connected world. That means that such a virus can not only get in via southern Africa but also other routes." The epidemiologist said that the travel ban would most likely only delay the spread of the variant by two weeks.
Virologist Marion Koopmans said in an interview with RTL Nieuws on Friday that she also doubts that stopping air travel will prevent the spread of the Omicron variant. "I get the reaction, but experience shows that may not have an effect because the virus has probably already been circulating longer undetected," Koopmans said.
Experts still have to determine whether the Omicron variant is more infectious than the delta variant, currently dominant in the Netherlands.