Hundreds of passengers on two flights from Johannesburg to the Netherlands on Saturday were held on the tarmac for hours after they were informed that they’d been exposed to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
New York Times Global Health Correspondent Stephanie Nolan, who was on the flight, tweeted that they wouldn’t even let a catering truck bring the group water during the wait.
Passengers were held in the terminal at Schiphol Airport for 18 hours while everyone was tested. Sixty-one out of 600 passengers tested positive for COVID-19.
Paula Zimmerman, a photographer, kept a video journal of the chaos. She was able to test negative but, as all passengers, she had to quarantine.
“Everybody’s waiting now to get tested,”Zimmerman made the comments in a video recorded during the waiting. “There’s little social distancing going on as far as far I can see.”
Scientists are testing further to confirm that those who have tested positive for Omicron virus have the variant. Officials fear this will make it less effective to the vaccine. The Netherlands has stopped travel from South Africa since the variant was first discovered by authorities. Other countries — including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and several in the European Union — have also enacted travel bans from the country.
Worldwide panic is being caused by the new variant, which is believed to make it more dangerous. Tuesday was the day President Joe Biden spoke to the nation, encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“Do not wait! Go get the booster if it’s time for you to do so,” Biden said. “And if you are not vaccinated now, it’s time to get vaccinated and take your children to be vaccinated. “
Dr. Anthony Fauci also warned the nation that the travel bans will not stop the variant from making its way into the United States.
“It likely will come,”He stated. “ It almost certainly will because it’s one of those viruses that when you have a high degree of transmissibility, it’s going to get to you.”
Omicron vaccine is being developed by drug companies, although this could take several months. Monday’s announcement by the World Health Organization stated that there was no global risk from the variant. “very high.”The organization stresses the importance of countries increasing their vaccination rates and testing rates.
“Testing and tracing remains fundamental to managing this pandemic and really understanding what you’re dealing with,”Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the organization, said. “We’re asking all countries to really look for this variant, to look if people who have got it are ending up in hospital and if people who are fully vaccinated are ending up in hospital.”