Wire Service
2 minute read
30 Nov 2021
4:27 pm

Dutch found Omicron variant a week before South Africa flight cases


There is concern about how far the variant had already spread in Europe before countries brought in travel bans on Southern African nations.

Travellers from South Africa are tested for Covid-19 on arrival at Schiphol airport on 30 November 2021. Photo: Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP

Dutch health authorities said on Tuesday that the new Covid-19 variant was already present in the Netherlands a week before a cluster of cases on two flights from South Africa.

The Omicron cases were discovered on November 19 and 23 and authorities are checking whether they had links to Southern Africa, and how far the new strain has spread.

The Netherlands joins other European countries including Belgium and Germany that have reported cases of the new strain before it was officially notified by South Africa to the World Health Organisation on November 24.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said it “has found the corona variant Omicron in two test samples that had already been taken in the Netherlands… on November 19 and 23”.

ALSO READ: New Omicron variant: Experts ask for calm

The first cases in the Netherlands were previously believed to be the 14 Omicron infections on two KLM flights from South Africa that arrived in Amsterdam on Friday, November 26.

“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned (in the earlier cases) have also been to Southern Africa,” the RIVM said.

It said the people had been informed that they had the Omicron strain and municipal health services had now started contact investigations.

“In the coming period, various studies will be conducted into the distribution of the Omicron variant in the Netherlands,” the institute said, adding that it would re-examine more samples from previous tests.

With 16 confirmed cases the Netherlands has one of the highest numbers in Europe of the new strain.

The airline passengers with Omicron, who were among 61 travellers on the two South Africa flights that tested positive for Covid, are currently in quarantine.

ALSO READ: Dutch find 14 Omicron cases among South Africa passengers

The Dutch case will increase concern about how far the variant had already spread in Europe before many countries brought in travel bans on Southern African nations.

Belgium, the first European country to report the presence of the new variant, has said that a case tested positive on November 22, and had developed symptoms 11 days after travelling to Egypt via Turkey.

Germany has meanwhile said that a person who tested positive for the variant had arrived at Frankfurt international airport on November 21.

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