Dutch health authorities have confirmed that 13 cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands among passengers who were on flights from South Africa.
- The confirmed Omicron cases are among 61 passengers who tested positive for COVID on flights from South Africa
- Several other European countries, including Italy, Germany and Belgium, have also reported cases of the new variant
- Omicron was first discovered in South Africa and has been branded as a “variant of concern” by the WHO
Tests were performed on 61 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport before a flight ban was introduced.
The two flights carried about 600 passengers and those tested positive were immediately isolated.
The National Institutes of Health (RIVM) said in a statement that testing continued on the samples.
“The Omicron variant has so far been identified in 13 of the positive tests. The study has not yet been completed,” RIVM said.
Concerns about the variant come as many European countries are already struggling with an increase in cases of coronavirus.
“It is not unlikely anymore [Omicron] cases will emerge in the Netherlands, “Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said at a news conference.
Countries are preparing for outbreaks
The discovery of Omicron, called a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), has raised concerns worldwide that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic.
The variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since been discovered in Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and government adviser on the Hong Kong pandemic, said that while it is not clear whether current coronavirus vaccines are effective against the new variant, the city’s vaccination rate should be increased and booster doses should be implemented as soon as possible.
He said the two people who tested positive for the Omicron variant had been given the Pfizer syringe and showed very mild symptoms, such as a sore throat.
Austria also investigated a suspected case on Sunday, and in France Health Minister Olivier Veran said the new variant was probably already circulating there.
America’s best expert in infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would not be surprised if the omicron variant was also already in the United States.
Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating, many countries – including Australia, the United States, Brazil, Canada, EU countries, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand – have announced travel bans or restrictions in the south. Africa.
Several countries imposed such restrictions on Sunday, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
In the most far-reaching effort to keep the variant in check, Israel announced late on Saturday that it would ban the access of all foreigners and reintroduce anti-terrorism phone tracking technology to limit the spread of the variant.
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Wires / ABC