Omicron COVID-19 variant was detected in the Netherlands before South Africa flights

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Appointment desk for COVID-19 investigation at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on 29 November.Kenzo Triboulard/AFP/Getty Images

Dutch health officials said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 had been detected in the Netherlands before two flights arrived from South Africa last week.

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The National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said at least 14 people on flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on 26 November.

“We have detected the Omicron coronavirus variant in two test samples that were taken on November 19 and November 23,” RIVM said. “It is not yet clear whether these people have visited southern Africa.”

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The discovery of Omicron has sparked concerns around the world that it could resist vaccination and prolong the nearly two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the more than 600 passengers on flights to South Africa tested positive for COVID-19 and went into quarantine after arriving last Friday.

Dutch officials are also seeking to contact and test another 5,000 passengers traveling from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe.

In the Netherlands, strict COVID-19 measures went into effect on Sunday to curb a record daily infection rate of more than 20,000 and ease pressure on hospitals.

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