How 2 Flights to Europe May Have Spurred Spread of New Variant - The New York Times
Dec 01, 2021 2 mins, 23 secs

For the hundreds of passengers traveling from South Africa to Amsterdam on Friday, flight KL592 had all the trappings of international travel in the Covid era.

Panic about the new Omicron variant that had been discovered in southern Africa prompted countries to close their borders.

Of the more than 60 people on that and another KLM flight from South Africa who tested positive for the virus, at least 14 had Omicron, according to Dutch officials.

He said that all the passengers should have been quarantined or isolated and monitored closely for seven to 10 days, especially because they could have caught the virus on the flight and tested negative as it incubated.

The Omicron variant, though designated “very high” risk by the World Health Organization, is still an unknown variable.

For all the focus on the flights to the Netherlands, positive cases of Omicron have already emerged in several countries, and public health experts consider its emergence everywhere inevitable.

He said on Italian radio that he had tested negative before boarding his flight on Nov.

It was only during a medical checkup in Milan, where he also underwent a Covid test so that he could return to Mozambique, that he tested positive for the coronavirus, and then, amid the heightened attention to the new variant, for Omicron.

On Tuesday, KLM, the airline which operated the two flights Friday from South Africa, apologized to passengers.

25 by scientists in South Africa, though Dutch officials said two cases were detected in Europe days earlier.

Upon the landing of the flights at Schiphol Airport, she said, the company was “asked by the Dutch government to park our aircrafts in a particular location so that all passengers could be tested,” and added that the airport and the Dutch public health authorities had organized and performed the testing.

A spokesman for the Dutch public health service, by contrast, said it had gone above and beyond in its efforts and saw nothing wrong with letting the passengers who had tested negative for the virus proceed on their journeys.

“There is no reason why we should restrain people from traveling if they have a negative test,” said Willem van den Oetelaar, a spokesman for the Public Health Services of the Netherlands, which said it followed health ministry guidelines.

But the Dutch health ministry said even the passengers who tested negative should be in quarantine, and Mr.

Mezek, who is vaccinated and tested negative, said he had received a call from the Dutch public health service on Saturday, and then an email imploring him to stay home and supply it with his travel details after leaving the Netherlands.

“It is important to know your whereabouts, so that health departments in various countries can contact the transfer passengers, to prevent further spreading” of the Omicron variant, according to an email shown to The Times and verified by the health agency.

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