Dutch find 61 Covid positive on “dystopia” flights from South Africa

Dutch health authorities said on Saturday that 61 passengers aboard two KLM flights from South Africa had tested positive for Covid-19 and that the results were under review for the new Omicron variant.

The positive cases – more than a tenth of the 600 people on board the two planes – have been quarantined at a hotel near Amsterdam‘s Schiphol Airport, one of the biggest international air transport hubs in Amsterdam. Europe.

Passengers said they endured miserable hours in the arrivals hall to get tested, with witnesses saying many people did not wear face masks or respect social distancing.

“We now know that 61 of the results were positive and 531 negative,” the Dutch Health Authority (GGD) said in a statement.

“The positive test results will be reviewed as soon as possible to determine if this is the disturbing new variant, which has since been given the Omicron variant name.”

All passengers who test positive must remain in hotel quarantine for seven days if they show symptoms and for five days if they do not, the GGD said.

Passengers who test negative but remain in the Netherlands should self-isolate at home. Those who do not live in the Netherlands can “continue their journey”, he said.

Passenger Paula Zimmerman, who documented her night via videos posted to Twitter, said she ultimately tested negative after hours of waiting but now had to spend five days in home quarantine.

People on the plane were “taken from the tarmac to a secluded room where we waited four hours before being tested,” Zimmerman told AFP.

“Everyone on the plane was in there” with little respect for social distancing rules, she said.

Its latest video, posted at around 2:50 a.m. GMT on Saturday, showed a row of additional passengers waiting to be tested while others slept on benches and on the floor.

“The organization was unfortunately terrible. Lessons for the future,” she tweeted.

– ‘Central dystopia’ –

New York Times global health reporter Stephanie Nolen also tweeted about her ordeal in what she called “Dystopia Central Airline Hallway.”

She described how passengers, including babies and toddlers, were crowded together waiting to be tested, while “still 30 percent of people do not wear face masks only over their mouths” .

Philippe, 33, who was on one of the flights from South Africa told AFP: “At one point, you felt like you were taken prisoner.”

“There was no leadership, no one knew what was going on. It was a very uncertain situation and people got really angry about it.”

“I am also angry,” he said. “Two years after the start of the pandemic, why do the authorities still have to think about how you test a plane full of people arriving at Schiphol?”

The Dutch health authority said: “We understand that people are frustrated” by the situation at Schiphol overnight.

“People have just taken a long journey with the idea that they will soon be home,” he said.

“Instead, right after landing, they are faced with a situation that we have never experienced in the Netherlands, which is that people have to be tested at Schiphol and are forced to wait to get a results.”

Dutch national airline KLM said it would continue to operate flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town “under stricter protocol”.

This meant entry was closed to all passengers except Dutch and European residents, who were required to present a negative PCR test and self-quarantine upon arrival.

“KLM takes the situation very seriously and will continue to prioritize the safety of passengers and crew,” the airline said in a statement, adding that “it will therefore impose strict on-board safety requirements for passengers and crew “.

A KLM flight from Johannesburg landed around 12:00 GMT, with 161 passengers on board. Another 107 passengers were not allowed to board in South Africa because they did not comply with new Dutch government protocols, KLM spokesman Remco Rous said.

bur-jhe-jcp / bp

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