Passengers from South Africa face wait, COVID-19 testing in Amsterdam
AMSTERDAM — Around 600 passengers arriving in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns over a newly detected variant of the coronavirus.
The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa early on Friday. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a statement that passengers already in the air would have to undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.
Passengers on the two KLM flights, from Cape Town and Johannesburg, said they had been kept waiting on the tarmac for hours.
“Vigorous applause because there is a BUS that has come to take us … somewhere,” tweeted New York Times journalist Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on the flight from Johannesburg.
“Bus to a hall to a huge queue. I can see COVID testers in bright blue PPE far on the distance. Still no snacks for the sad babies,” she added in a second tweet.
The airport said in a statement, “Everything is done carefully and that’s why it took some time. Passengers are provided with food and drinks. They will be tested (for) the coronavirus.”
Local health authorities later clarified that only passengers that test positive for COVID-19 and those sitting near those who test positive will have to quarantine. Results from the tests are expected later on Friday.
A spokesperson for the health authorities in Kennemerland, the region that oversees Schiphol, said it was likely some positive tests would be registered, given the large numbers of passengers.
Positive cases will be analysed by a Dutch academic medical hospital to determine if they are the new strain, dubbed Omicron.
The Dutch government separately on Friday announced the nighttime closure of bars, restaurants and most stores as it grapples with a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is swamping its healthcare system.
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