Netherlands tests passengers on South Africa flights for Omicron as 61 catch Covid

27 November 2021, 20:18

Dutch authorities are testing Covid-infected passengers for the Omicron variant
Dutch authorities are testing Covid-infected passengers for the Omicron variant. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Fresh Omicron variant fears have been raised after dozens of people tested positive for Covid when flying to the Netherlands from South Africa.

Worries about the mutation possibly reducing vaccine effectiveness have trigged Government action in the UK, with new rules for arrivals and mask-wearing introduced.

It is still thought vaccines will provide some protection from serious illness but experts are racing to discover more about the new variant, which was first identified in southern Africa.

In the Netherlands, officials say 61 passengers across two flights from South Africa on Friday have tested positive for Covid. They have all now been put into isolation and it is not known if any are infected with the Omicron variant.

More tests are under way to determine if they are carrying it.

Officials said more than 500 other passengers tested negative and they have been allowed home or to continue their journey to other countries.

Read more: New Omicron measures: PM announces tighter face mask rules and all arrivals must isolate

Read more: What is the Omicron variant and what has Boris Johnson announced?

Government plans to reintroduce face masks in shops and on transport

In the UK, the Government has tightened up restrictions on travellers, self-isolation and mask wearing in a bid to delay the spread of Omicron until more is known about it.

Urging people to get their vaccines and booster shots, Boris Johnson said all arrivals will need to self-isolate and take a PCR test by the end of day two of touching down in Britain, and remain isolated until they get a negative result.

He did not specify what the new rules would be for mask wearing but he did say the Government will be "tightening [them] up".

Anyone who is a contact of a confirmed Omicron case will need to self-isolate even if they have been fully vaccinated.

Two cases have been detected in the UK, with one in Essex being linked to the other in Nottingham. The latter is thought to have visited southern Africa recently but their full travel history has not been revealed.

The Government is also considering rolling out boosters to all adults and giving people aged 12-15 a follow up jab.

In Europe, cases are slowly starting to be detected, with Belgium and Germany also confirming them.