Omicron cases uncovered on flights to Amsterdam as scientists rush to assess new threat

Dutch health authorities said on Sunday they found at least 13 cases of the omicron coronavirus variant among 61 infected passengers who arrived in the Netherlands from South Africa on Friday. The new cases were a clear sign the virus was crossing borders even as governments imposed new travel restrictions and flight bans.

Additional cases could arise as health officials were still examining test samples, said Hugo de Jonge, the country’s health minister, adding that those who tested positive were isolating themselves. The 61 passengers who tested positive were among more than 500 who arrived on two separate flights.

A growing list of countries are scrambling to respond to the new, highly mutated version of the virus, which was first detected in Botswana and South Africa and has caused panic in governments and markets. Health officials in Australia and Denmark both confirmed cases of the omicron variant in recent travelers from southern Africa on Sunday.

And British health officials said on Sunday that a third case had been detected in an individual who had spent time in Westminster, central London. They said the case was linked to a trip to southern Africa.

The World Health Organization on Friday warned that omicron was a “variant of concern,” the most serious category the agency is using for such monitoring, and said its numerous genetic mutations could help it break down. spread faster, even among vaccinated people.

Scientists have warned that relatively little is known about the new variant and that only a small number of confirmed cases have surfaced worldwide.

In Australia, officials said omicron was detected in two travelers who traveled to Sydney on Saturday evening on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha. They were asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, according to a statement from the New South Wales State Health Authority. The travelers were placed in quarantine.

In Denmark, officials said omicron had been detected in two travelers who had recently arrived from South Africa. The two are in isolation and their close contacts are sought, according to a statement from the State Serum Institute, the Danish infectious disease authority.

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