61 people on flights from South Africa to the Netherlands test positive for COVID-19

A traveler checks his phone while waiting with others for their flights in an airport terminal.
A traveler waits for a flight at the international airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Friday.
(Jerome Delay / Associated Press)

Sixty-one people who arrived in the Netherlands on two flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for the coronavirus and were in isolation as the world anxiously sought to contain a highly transmissible new coronavirus variant.

Further tests are now underway on the travelers who arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport to establish if any of them have the new omicron variant of COVID-19 that was first discovered in southern Africa.

The variant’s swift spread among young people in South Africa has alarmed health professionals. In just two weeks, omicron has turned a period of low transmission in the country into one of rapid growth.


Two planes arrived in the Netherlands from Johannesburg and Cape Town shortly after the Dutch government, along with other nations around the world, on Friday imposed a ban on flights from southern African nations following discovery of the new omicron variant.

The Kennermerland local health authority, which is responsible for the testing and isolation operation, said in an update Saturday that the people who tested positive must quarantine for seven days if they have symptoms and five days if they are symptom-free.

South African scientists have identified a new version of the coronavirus this week that they believe may be behind a recent spike in COVID-19 infections.

The 539 travelers who tested negative were allowed to return home or continue their journeys to other countries. Under government regulations, those who live in the Netherlands and are allowed to return home must self-isolate for at least five days.