The Hague, Netherlands – The Dutch public health authority confirmed on Sunday that 13 people who arrived in the Netherlands on flights from South Africa on Friday have so far tested positive for the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
61 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday were immediately put into isolation after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before the flight ban was imposed, while sequencing was carried out to establish that Do they have a newer version.
The Public Health Institute said in a statement that testing of the samples was underway.
Most of the 61 people who tested positive were isolated at a hotel near the airport, while very few were allowed to sit out of their quarantine at home under strict conditions.
Health officials have appealed to all travelers who have returned from southern Africa in the past week, and to set up a testing center at Schiphol airport for Dutch nationals returning from the region. The tests are voluntary, and travelers can wait for results in isolation at home.
This is a breaking news update. Below is an earlier story from AP.
BERLIN (AP) – Australia on Sunday became the latest country to detect the Omicron version of the coronavirus in travelers arriving from southern Africa, while Israel decided to bar the entry of foreign nationals – part of a growing raft of restrictions imposed by The hardest-hit nations around the world as they scramble to slow its spread.
Confirmed or suspected cases of the new variant have been reported in several European countries, Israel and Hong Kong, just days after it was identified by researchers in South Africa. The “act first, ask questions later” approach reflects growing alarm about the emergence of a potentially more infectious form in nearly two years in a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people, impacting lives and has disrupted economies around the world.
While much remains to be learned about the new variant, researchers are concerned that it may be more resistant to the protection provided by vaccines and could mean epidemics last longer than anticipated.
Israel moved to ban entry by foreigners and to impose mandatory quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad.
“The restrictions on the country’s borders is not an easy step, but it is a temporary and necessary step,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
The head of the government’s advisory panel on COVID-19, Dr. Ran Balisar told Israel’s Cannes Public Radio that the new measures were necessary for the “fog of war” surrounding the new edition, adding that it was “better to act quickly and vigorously”. in order to prevent its spread.
Several countries have restricted or restricted travel to and from various southern African countries – the latest being New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Saudi Arabia. Places where sanctions were already imposed include Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the US.
Australian officials said two foreign travelers who arrived in Sydney from Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the Omicron variant. Arrivals from nine African countries are now required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival.
The United States’ top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Omicron version was already in the US as well.
Fauci said on NBC television, “We haven’t figured it out yet, but when you have a virus that’s showing this degree of transmittance…
In Europe, much of which is already grappling with a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks, officials were also on their guard.
The UK on Saturday tightened rules on wearing masks and testing international arrivals after two micron cases were found. Spain announced it would not allow British visitors without vaccination from 1 December. They are currently allowed to enter with a negative coronavirus test.
Italy was studying a list of airline passengers who returned from Mozambique in the past two weeks and arrived after a business passenger who landed in Rome on November 11 tested positive for Omicron.
Alessio D’Amato, the Lazio region’s top health official, said: “The discovery phase of the new variant has begun. Controls have been tightened at airports, seaports and train stations.” The region that also includes Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International Airport is sending random virus test samples to Rome’s Spallanzani Infectious Diseases Hospital for analysis in the new version.
In France, Health Minister Olivier Veran said that with no cases yet confirmed in France, “it is a question of hours,” noting that Omicron infections have been reported in several neighboring countries. “It is likely that those are currently in vogue,” he said on a visit to the Paris vaccination centre.
While it is not yet clear how existing vaccines work against the Omicron variant, Veran said the French government is not changing its strategy to fight the latest surge of infections driven by the delta variant, which focuses on increasing vaccinations and boosters. is focused.
David Hui, a respiratory medicine specialist and government adviser on the pandemic in Hong Kong, said that even though it is unclear whether current coronavirus vaccines are effective against the new variant, the city’s vaccination rate should be increased and booster doses implemented. should go. as soon as possible.
He said the two people who tested positive for the Omicron variant had received the BioNTech-Pfizer shot and displayed very mild symptoms such as a sore throat.
“The vaccines should work but there will be some reduction in effectiveness,” he said.
Zhen Soo reported from Hong Kong. Adam Schreck in Bangkok and Associated Press writers from around the world contributed to this report.