RIVM: Omicron variant found in 18 airline passengers from South Africa
A new report from the RIVM showed that a total of 18 airline passengers traveling from South Africa were found to be infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus after they arrived at Schiphol Airport on November 26. The flights were carrying a combined total of 624 people, 61 of whom tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
“The people who have been diagnosed with the Omicron variant may be released from isolation on Saturday, 4 December, if they have no symptoms,” the RIVM said on Saturday. “Some people in whom the Omicron variant was found have had mild health complaints, others have none or hardly at all. The situation is different for each person.”
The flights landed shortly after the Netherlands imposed an entry ban for those arriving from Southern Africa out of concern for the Omicron variant. The passengers were hastily corralled at the airport and tested for the coronavirus infection by the GGD. Those who tested negative were told to self-isolate for several days before testing again. Those who tested positive were initially asked to quarantine at a hotel near the airport.
Sequencing examinations of the coronavirus samples first showed that 13 people were infected with the Omicron variant, which is believed to be more contagious than the Delta variant common to the Netherlands. The RIVM raised that total to 18 in a statement released on Saturday.
Despite efforts to contain the variant at the airport, research released last week showed that the Omicron variant was already in the Netherlands before the flights from South Africa arrived. A sample from one person who tested positive in the Netherlands on November 19 showed they were infected with the new variant. Another had tested positive on November 23.
One of the two had not recently traveled abroad, while the other was recently in Southern Africa. The two people have no known connection to each other.
The entry ban against several Southern African nations applies only to those who do not have citizenship or residency in a European Union country. Several other exemptions and requirements also factor into the decision to allow or prevent people from flying to the Netherlands. The Dutch Cabinet extended the ban on Friday through December 14.