After the Omicron variant emerged in Africa last week, the United States, the European Union and other countries have banned flights from southern Africa. Israel and Morocco have slammed their doors on the world. Australia, Japan and other countries have postponed their opening and joined China, which has adopted a fortress mentality as it seeks to defeat the virus completely at home.
Despite all the attention paid to flights to the Netherlands, positive cases of Omicron have already emerged in several countries, and public health experts consider its emergence everywhere to be inevitable.
A vaccinated Italian, who has not been publicly identified, returned to Mozambique for business earlier in November in the southern city of Caserta. He told Italian radio he tested negative before boarding his flight on November 11, as demanded by Italy. As he was traveling for work, he did not, according to Italian rules, have to isolate himself on his return.
It wasn’t until a medical check-up in Milan, where he also underwent a Covid test so he could return to Mozambique, that he tested positive for the coronavirus, and then, amid the increased attention to the new variant, for Omicron. Now he, his wife and children, who are also positive for the virus, are in isolation, all so far with mild symptoms.
On Tuesday, KLM, the airline that operated the two flights from South Africa on Friday, apologized to the passengers. But Marjan Rozemeijer, spokesperson for the company, suggested she was just as caught off guard by the variant as anyone.
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When the flights landed at Schiphol Airport, she said, the company was “asked by the Dutch government to park our planes 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 carried out the tests.
A spokesperson for the Dutch public health service, on the other hand, said he went above and beyond and saw nothing wrong with let passengers who had tested negative for the virus continue their journey.