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Omicron in the Netherlands

Of the 61 passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Amsterdam on Friday, the Dutch Ministry of Health has confirmed that 13 are infected with the Omicron variant, BBC reported.

The two flights, which carried more than 600 people in total, came from South Africa. Passengers who test positive for COVID-19 have been quarantined since their arrival. Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters it was “not unthinkable that there are more cases in the Netherlands” and urged his compatriots to get tested.

With this news, the Netherlands joins a growing list of countries with confirmed cases of the Omicron strain. According to The New York Times, the new variant has now reached Denmark and Australia. CNN reports confirmed cases in UK, Germany, Italy, Israel, Hong Kong and Czechia. No cases have been detected in the United States, but Dr Anthony Fauci said in a interview Saturday that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Omicron strain had already reached the United States.

The World Health Organization has designated Omicron as a “variant of concern,” which means that it is highly infectious or transmissible, or that it is particularly resistant to vaccines and other treatments. Most of the known cases of the variant originate from southern Africa.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Association, said The telegraph that, so far, she has observed “unusual but mild” symptoms in people infected with the Omicron variant.

A growing number of countries – including the United States, Brazil, Canada, Japan and South Korea – have announced restrictions on travel from southern Africa, as has the European Union. Israel will close its borders to all non-nationals for two weeks from Monday in a bid to slow the spread of Omicron. Israel’s internal security agency has also announced that it will resume tracking cell phones of Israelis who are confirmed to carry the new variant.