06 December 2021, by Victoria Séveno
On Friday evening, the Dutch government announced their decision to extend the current flight ban on a number of southern African countries as a result of the new variant of COVID-19, Omicron.
Dutch government extends entry ban for southern Africa
The flight ban was initially announced by Health Minister Hugo de Jonge on November 26, and was supposed to expire at midnight on December 4. However, following advice from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), the government has decided to extend the flight ban for South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe until midnight on December 15.
In a statement, the government said the decision had been made in order to “prevent the spread of the variant Omicron, which circulates in the southern part of Africa, as much as possible.” Certain travellers are exempt from the ban, including Dutch citizens and residents, but they will be required to present a negative PCR test and must quarantine for at least five days upon arrival in the Netherlands.
The RIVM has also called for the introduction of a mandatory “fit-to-fly” test for all travellers – vaccinated or unvaccinated – from outside of the EU arriving in the Netherlands, as well as mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated travellers. De Jonge has ruled out these restrictions for the time being, saying they must first be discussed with fellow EU member states.
18 Omicron cases confirmed in the Netherlands
The decision by a number of European countries to impose flight bans on various southern African countries has been criticised by many, as new information has revealed that the Omicron variant was in the Netherlands before it was detected in South Africa.
Over the weekend, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) confirmed at least 182 cases of the Omicron variant in the EU and EEA, 18 of which occurred in the Netherlands. Since then, Denmark has reported 183 Omicron cases, while the UK has reported at least 246 infections. According to the ECDC, most of the cases within the EU occurred among people who had recently returned from southern Africa.