A Dutch public health agency confirmed on Sunday afternoon that at least 13 passengers aboard just two flights from South Africa that landed at Amsterdam Schipol airport on Friday have tested positive for the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
All 624 passengers aboard the two KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flights – one from Johannesburg and the other from Cape Town – were subjected to compulsory testing after their arrival in the Netherlands as Europe moved to quickly contain the threat posed by the variant.
Despite passengers having negative pre-departure tests, the second set of tests revealed that 61 passengers were COVID-19 positive. Health officials had initially feared a positivity rate of as much as 14 per cent following preliminary results but this was later revised down to 10 per cent.
All positive samples were sent away for further analysis and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said on Sunday that 13 had so far come back as the Omicron variant.
Passengers on the flight were stuck for hours on the tarmac as officials scrambled to decide what to do with them. In the end, the passengers were herded into a part of the airport away from other customers where they could be tested.
Health officials have put an urgent call out for anyone who has travelled to the Netherlands since November 22 from the following countries to come forward for testing: South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe.
The Dutch government hasn’t outright banned flights from southern Africa but will restrict the right to travel to Dutch and EU citizens, as well as a small number of other special categories.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.