RIVM: 13 Covid infections linked to Omicron variant, so far
At least 13 people on flights to Amsterdam from South Africa tested positive for the newly-discovered Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. They are the first known cases of the Omicron variant found in the Netherlands.
The testing is ongoing and has not yet been completed, the RIVM said on Sunday. "The new variant may be found in more test samples," the Dutch health institute wrote in a statement.
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge emphasized in a press conference on Sunday afternoon that all travelers from southern Africa must enter quarantine immediately upon arrival. The GGD will be in contact with people returning from a high-risk area. "We are concerned, but how concerned we are will show in the following weeks," De Jonge said.
The RIVM announced on Saturday evening that it is highly likely the Omicron variant is already in the Netherlands. Head of the Dutch Union for Intensive Care, Diederik Gommers, said that more information needs to be gathered on how contagious the Omicron variant is, if it makes the people it infects sicker and how vaccines react to the mutation. "It is very serious, but we also do not know many facts," Gommers said in WNL op Zondag. "There's much uncertainty and that is what scares us."
A total of 61 people out of 624 people on the two flights tested positive for any coronavirus variant. The infected people were isolated in a guarded hotel near Schiphol, where they will remain for at least five days if they have no complaints and seven days if they do. Travelers who tested negative must quarantine at home for five days and then get tested again.
The organization again called for recent travelers who spent time in Southern Africa to get tested for the coronavirus, even if they are asymptomatic. The GGD opened a special hotline for those passengers to schedule their tests. The phone number is 0800-5005.
The RIVM said that anyone who arrived in the Netherlands from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe should contact the GGD especially if they traveled on or after November 22. A travel ban for non-EU citizens has been implemented in these countries, but EU citizens can still travel back and forth. "I have asked the RIVM for advice on generic extra travel restrictions and I want to talk with other European countries how to proceed," De Jonge said.