Sixty-one people who arrived in the Netherlands on two flights from South Africa have tested positive for Covid-19.
The flights, which arrived yesterday, had departed from Johannesburg and Cape Town to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
Both flights arrived shortly after the ban on flights from southern African nations was introduced by the Dutch government and other nations around the world.
The travellers who tested positive for the virus are in isolation, and further tests are under way to establish if any of them have contracted the new Omicron variant which was first discovered in southern Africa.
In just two weeks, the Omicron variant has spread rapidly amongst young people in South Africa, to the concern of health professionals.
The current testing and isolation operation at Schiphol Airport is being overseen by the Kennermerland local health authority, who said on Saturday that passengers who have tested positive for the virus must quarantine for seven days if they are symptomatic, and five if they are not.
The 539 passengers who tested negative were able to return home or continue their journeys. Current Dutch government guidelines allow those who live in the Netherlands to return home and self-isolate for at least five days.
In Germany, an official said that there was a “very high probability” that the new Omicron variant had already arrived in the country. Health minister for Hesse state, Kai Klose, tweeted that “several mutations typical of Omicron” had been found on Friday night in a traveller returning from South Africa.
British passengers reported scenes of “chaos” at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Friday. Around 150 travellers on a KLM flight say they were held on the tarmac for four hours before moved to a holding area inside the terminal building.
One, Ron Stromberg, said: “We set off last night hoping to get back to the UK via Amsterdam, we were supposed to land at 10 and then take another flight to Manchester an hour or so later.”
“We should have been in Manchester three or four hours ago. We’re not, and we don’t know what is going on.”
Some passengers have reported being given little information and only one sandwich to eat over the course of eight hours.
Fellow traveller James, 29, a business consultant in Amsterdam, said that despite the change in regulations, they thought it would “be fine” considering they were already on the plane, adding “The rules came in at midday, but we landed hours before then. Instead, we’ve now been here three hours waiting for our tests.
“Really there’s just been no communication over what is going on. Clearly it started off with KLM having to run it, now it’s just the airport who have to run it, the government, the local health people - and none of them know who is in charge,” he said.