Passengers from South Africa face wait, COVID-19 test in Amsterdam

Passengers from South Africa line up to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after being detained on the tarmac at Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands, November 25, 2021, on this photo obtained from social media and obtained by REUTERS

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AMSTERDAM, November 26 (Reuters) – Around 600 passengers arriving in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday faced hours of delay and testing over concerns over a newly detected variant of the coronavirus.

The Dutch government on Friday banned all air travel from southern Africa. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a statement that passengers already in the air should undergo testing and quarantine upon arrival.

Passengers on two KLM flights, from Cape Town and Johannesburg, said they were held on the tarmac for hours.

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“Loud applause because there is a BUS that has come to take us … somewhere,” tweeted New York Times reporter Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on the flight from Johannesburg.

“Bus to a hall towards a huge queue. I can see COVID testers in bright blue PPE in the distance. Still no snacks for sad babies,” she added in a second tweet.

The airport said in a statement: “Everything is done with care and that is why it has taken a long time. Passengers are given food and drink. They will be tested (for) the coronavirus.”

Local health authorities later clarified that only passengers who test positive for COVID-19 and those seated near those who test positive will need to be quarantined. Test results are expected later on Friday.

A spokesperson for health authorities in Kennemerland, the region that oversees Schiphol, said it was likely positive tests would be recorded, given the large number of passengers.

Positive cases will be analyzed by a Dutch university medical hospital to determine if it is the new strain, dubbed Omicron.

The Dutch government separately announced on Friday it was closing bars, restaurants and most stores at night as it grapples with a record spate of COVID-19 cases flooding its healthcare system. Read more

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Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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