Yesterday it was announced that 61 passengers - out of 624 aboard two international flights arriving in Amsterdam - had tested positive for COVID. This morning we have confirmation that `at least' 13 of those were the emerging Omicron variant.
The following statement comes from the Netherland's National Institute for Public Health - RIVM, which suggests more positive findings may be forthcoming.
Coronavirus variant Omicron found in 13 positive tests so far
On 26 November 2021, 624 passengers returning from South Africa were tested for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by the GGD Kennemerland. The passengers were tested at Schiphol Airport; 61 of them tested positive for COVID-19. These test samples were sent to RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment for further analysis to determine which variant of the coronavirus was involved. Initial results from genome sequencing showed the omicron variant (B.1.1.529) in 13 of the samples from the positive tests. Sequencing has not been completed yet. It is possible that the new variant will be found in more test samples.
The first cases involving the Omicron variant were reported in South Africa. Since then, this variant has been identified in various locations worldwide.
Travellers returning from countries with Omicron risk: please get tested
People who returned on Monday 22 November 2021 or after from countries where the Omicron variant is present are requested to get tested, even if they do not have any symptoms. This applies to people returning from the following countries:
South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
A special hotline has been opened where these people can make an appointment to get tested. That telephone number is 0800-5005.
Important: people who recently travelled from one of the designated high-risk countries to the Netherlands should go into quarantine and stay home.
This applies even if you do not have any symptoms, and even if you have been vaccinated, or had previously tested positive for COVID-19.
You should not have any visitors. These precautions apply at least until the test results are known and you have received instructions from the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs).
Stop the spread, follow the measures
Regardless of which virus variant is involved, including the omicron variant: follow the measures.
More evidence that Omicron has already established a significant beachhead in South Africa, and has probably already spread widely around the globe.
While that speaks to Omicron's transmissibility, and its ability to successfully compete with Delta, we still don't have good data on its virulence, despite some of the talking points I'm seeing being pushed on social media.
While some South African doctors have reported seeing mild illness associated with Omicron - mostly among those fully vaccinated - other doctors are reporting a different story, particularly among unvaccinated younger adults.
Early reports on novel disease outbreaks are often incomplete, misinterpreted, or just plain wrong, and should always be taken with a very large grain of salt.
We need more time, and data, before we can come to any real conclusions. In the meantime, Caveat Lector.