Dutch health authorities were expected to announce on Sunday afternoon how many cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been found in the Netherlands, after 61 people who flew from South Africa tested positive for coronavirus.
The Netherlands’ Institute for Health (RIVM) said on Saturday it believes that the new variant is present in at least some of the positive cases found among some 600 passengers who were tested on arrival from two flights from South Africa on Friday.
A RIVM spokesperson said on Saturday it was “almost certain” it had identified cases of the new variant, but further testing was needed, and the institute will not say how many until it is sure. The spokesperson said on Sunday that findings would be released in the afternoon.
The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” last week by the World Health Organization, has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic. Cases have now been found in at least nine countries.
The Dutch investigation began with testing of 624 passengers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on two flights on Friday, before the Dutch government changed its rules on air traffic from southern Africa due to concerns over the variant.
The 61 passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 are being kept in isolation at a hotel near the airport.
Dutch health authorities are also seeking to contact and test some 5,000 other passengers who have travelled from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday.
Worries over the variant come as many European countries are already grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases.
In the Netherlands, rules go into effect on Sunday mandating the closure of bars, restaurants and most stores at 5 p.m. in an attempt to reverse a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is swamping the healthcare system. @reuters.
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