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13 omicron cases detecting among travelers from South Africa, Dutch officials say

·2 min read


Dutch health authorities on Sunday confirmed that 13 airplane passengers returning from South Africa to the Netherlands had tested positive for the omicron COVID-19 variant.

As the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) said in a press release, 624 passengers returning from South Africa were tested for COVID-19 on Nov. 26 at the Schiphol Airport. Of these passengers, 61 tested positive for the coronavirus and 13 were found to have contracted the omicron variant.

"Sequencing has not been completed yet. It is possible that the new variant will be found in more test samples," RIVM said.

The health agency has requested that people returning to the Netherlands from countries that are known to have omicron - South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe - get tested.

Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy and Germany, have also reported cases of the omicron variant. And White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the virus will "inevitably" arrive in the United States.

Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch minister of health, said in a press conference that all 13 individuals are currently in isolation and reiterated a request that anyone who has been in South Africa in the past week report to health authorities for testing.

De Jonge stated that he would be taking advice from RIVM on how to proceed and hopes to work with other European countries in addressing the variant.

On Friday, the Dutch government announced stricter measures on public spaces in light of rising COVID-19 cases.

The government will be enforcing business closures from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., although essential businesses may stay open until 8 p.m. Face masks and distances of 1.5 meters between patrons must be enforced at businesses such as restaurants, theaters and bars, meaning their capacities must be lowered as well.

Medical procedures such as hip and hernia operations have also been canceled to ensure care for medical situations including major heart surgery, kidney transplants and cancer treatment.