61 COVID-19 cases found on flight from South Africa to Netherlands amid screening for new variant

Sixty-one COVID-19 cases were detected on an international flight from South Africa to the Netherlands on Friday, according to Dutch health officials.

The cases were detected among passengers on two flights that arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on Friday as authorities were conducting testing for the recently discovered omicron variant of the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

A total of 600 people were on the flights that arrived from South Africa. They were kept away from other travelers at the airport, and those who tested positive for the coronavirus are being isolated there, officials told the news outlet on Saturday.

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According to a Dutch health ministry spokesperson, passengers' health information, specifically whether any of the passengers were infected with the new omicron variant, will remain private until later Saturday, Reuters reported.

KLM, the Dutch arm of Air France, which operated the flights out of Cape Town and Johannesburg, told Reuters that it was working to determine the rules that were in place on Friday to prevent people who have coronavirus infections from boarding flights.

Rules on its website state that passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test 24 hours prior to the flight, but they are not required to provide proof of vaccination, the news outlet reported.

The positive cases found on both flights are reportedly being analyzed by the National Institute for Health.

The news comes as countries scramble to contain the new variant of the coronavirus. The World Health Organization labeled the new strain a variant of concern, a label applied when a particular strain is especially virulent, transmissible or able to defeat public health measures. 

The new mutation was first discovered in South Africa. 

The United States, European Union, Australia and others have restricted travel from South Africa amid concerns that the strain will once again lead to widespread outbreaks. The new variant has already been detected in Israel.