As fears grow over Omicron’s new super mutant Omicron variant, approximately 85 Covid cases have been reported in the Netherlands.

Around 600 passengers arrived on two planes in Schipol Airport, near Amsterdam, from Johannesburg — the epicentre for the new strain which experts fear is 40 per cent more vaccine evasive than Delta — hours after travel bans were put in place. 

As a precaution against this variant, countries across Europe have closed their borders yesterday to southern African countries. However, cases in Israel and Belgium were already detected. US President Joe Biden said that the pandemic would not stop until worldwide vaccinations are in place.

While the authorities examine whether the passengers have contracted the virus, they placed them in quarantine hotels. Some people complained that they were left without food or water for several hours onboard the aircraft. 

Due to record breaking Covid levels, authorities in the country announced that some restaurants, bars and shops would be closed early.

It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to implement fresh travel bans on a host of countries, after Britain halted flights to South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe yesterday.

Experts warn that Britain might be subject to restrictions again this Christmas. However, Prime Minister David Cameron hopes that travel bans can prevent such a lockdown.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said he fears Britons will not accept lockdown rules to fight off the variant over the winter because of ‘behavioural fatigue’ caused by two years of restrictions. 

No cases have been recorded in Britain so far but  Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of the UK’s Health and Security Agency (UKHSA), warned it was ‘possible’ the strain’ is already in the country.

Pictured: Passengers wait on their Covid test results at Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands last night

Pictured: Passengers wait on their Covid test results at Schiphol Airport, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands last night

Passengers from KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa wait to be screened at Amsterdam Airport, the Netherlands, yesterday

Yesterday, passengers from KLM Flight KL598, Cape Town, South Africa, wait for their screening at Amsterdam Airport.

A woman from the KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, queues for her Covid test at Amsterdam Airport last night

A woman from the KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, queues for her Covid test at Amsterdam Airport last night

Cases of Omicron have already been picked up in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It is not yet known whether the variant arrived in the Netherlands yesterday but Dutch authorities are sequencing passengers' tests

Omicron cases were already found in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. Although it isn’t known if the variant arrived yesterday in the Netherlands, Dutch authorities have begun sequencing passenger tests.

How do we know more about Omicron? 

Scientists are worried about the B.1.1.529 variation, which is called Omicron by the World Health Organisation, because it contains around 30 mutations, double that of the Delta variant. These mutations include traits not only that are common in the various variants, but they also contain some features previously unknown. 

Scientists in the UK first discovered this new strain after samples from South Africa, Hong Kong, and Botswana were posted to an online coronavirus tracking site. 

Friday’s confirmation that the cases were identified in Israel and Belgium was confirmed, but there is no evidence of cases currently in the UK.

Prof. Adam Finn is a member the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. He told Good Morning Britain that sequencing has been done around Britain to see if there have been any imported cases. 

The new variant is being studied to determine if it may cause new infections in patients who have had coronavirus vaccines or other vaccinations.  

Director of the Rosalind Foundation Institute, Professor James Naismith has indicated that although the vaccines will still be effective and provide protection, the new variant will almost certainly reduce their effectiveness.

Pfizer/BioNTech have already produced a vaccine for Covid-19. They are currently studying how the new version can be evaded vaccines. 

Another day of chaos caused by coronavirus

  • Unvaccinated young women were the ones who tested positive in Belgium’s first European case.
  • In the UK, Covid was less popular than ever.
  • A report by the government concluded that you are not at greater risk from Covid if you go to the theatre, or watch a match on television than if your friends do.
  • Experts from South Africa suggested that there were ‘every indication’ vaccines are still effective against this variant.
  • It was speculated that booster jabs would soon be approved by vaccine experts due to the discovery of this strain.
  • In Britain, there were another 50,091 cases of the virus and 160 deaths.

The Dutch health ministry stated that travelers who have positive tests will be isolated in hotels near Schiphol.

“Of the positive tests results, we are quickly researching whether they are the latest variant of concern. Now called Omicron.

All air travel leaving southern Africa was banned by the Dutch government on Friday morning. Hugo de Jonge, Health Minister of the Netherlands, stated that all passengers en route to the Netherlands will have to be quarantined and tested upon their arrival.

KLM passengers from Cape Town and Johannesburg said that the planes waited for them on the asphalt for several hours.

Stephanie Nolen (New York Times journalist, and passenger on flight) wrote: ‘Vigorous apologies because there is an bus that has arrived to take us somewhere.

Later, she tweeted: “Bus from a hallway to a large queue. You can clearly see Covid testers in brightly colored PPE at a distance. No snacks are available for those poor little babies.

The spokesperson representing the Dutch health authority Kennemerland said that the positive Schiphol cases are being analyzed by an academic hospital in the Netherlands to confirm if they’re the new strain. 

South African experts yesterday moved to calm the wave of panic over the variant, describing it as a ‘storm in a tea cup’, despite fears

A British member of the vaccine task force stated that while travel bans would not prevent the virus from reaching Britain, they could defer a surge in potential cases until after Christmas to save the NHS.

Omicron’s return to the UK is not possible, according to experts. 

Passengers sit in their seats aboard KLM Flight 598 on the tarmac at Schipol airport in Amsterdam after it landed from Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday

After landing from Cape Town in South Africa yesterday, passengers sat in the seats of KLM Flight 598 at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.

Passengers from KLM flight KL598 from Cape Town, South Africa, wait to be screened at Amsterdam Airport yesterday

Yesterday, passengers from KLM flight KL598, Cape Town, South Africa, waited to be checked at Amsterdam Airport.

This chart shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 variant (blue) and Indian 'Delta' variant (red) over time in Guateng province in South Africa, where the virus is most prevalent. It suggests that the mutant strain could outcompete Delta in the province within weeks

The chart below shows how many cases were either the B.1.1.529 or Indian ‘Delta) variants over time in Guateng province, South Africa. This is the area where the virus is the most common. This suggests that Delta could be outcompeted by the mutant strain within weeks.

South Africa gets ready for another wave of infection 

South Africa’s scientists have been trying to stem the spread of the transmissible Omicron version of Covid, which was detected for the first times in South Africa.

Two weeks later, South Africa has gone from being a country with low transmission rates to one that sees a rapid increase in confirmed cases.

The numbers of confirmed cases are relatively low at 2,828 on Friday. However, Omicron’s rapidity in infecting young South Africans is alarming health professionals.

Rudo Mathivha from Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital said that “We are seeing a marked shift in the demographic profile patients with Covid,” during an online briefing.

“Young adults in their 20s and 30s are being brought in for moderate or severe diseases, with some requiring intensive care. Some 65 percent are not fully vaccinated while the majority of those remaining are less than half, she stated.

“I worry that public healthcare facilities will soon become overwhelmed as more people apply for them,” said a concerned citizen. 

Sajid Javid Health Secretary told MPs that while there were ‘huge global concerns’ about vaccines, they had placed Britain in a solid position.

Scientists suggested that the existing jabs might be altered to deal with this variant. Representatives from the World Health Organisation said it was too early to resort to “Plan B”, such as work at home and vaccination passports.

But news of the variant saw the FTSE 100 — the UK’s leading share index — suffer its sharpest drop since January, closing down at 3.7 per cent, spelling alarm for travel companies banking on winter bookings.

An aviation senior informed the Times that there were “serious jitters” in the industry. She added, “There is now an enormous question mark over Christmas. There is no doubt that the red list will grow, and this will result in a major knock on.

Sources within the Government claim that ministers want to limit travel in order to prevent restrictions at home. This is even though it could mean serious damage to the industry.

The original name of the strain was the “Botswana” variant. However, it was officially designated as a variant of concern’ last night by WHO.

The discovery of it earlier this week is so important because there are around 30 mutations in the genome, some that could increase transmission risk. Experts described it as being the “worst” variant.

After the confirmation of the first South African case in Europe, the EU suspended all travel to the region. Britain had already put six nations on the travel ‘red list’ – and was poised to add two more last night.

According to a government advisor, the public must be ready for any possibility that Covid restrictions will return. Mail was told by a top government source that people should not panic.

This was after Gordon Brown, ex-Prime Minister of Gordon Brown, warned wealthy nations not to share vaccines as it would be ‘coming back for us’. 

Brown also criticised the European Union as a ‘neocolonialism’ for its purchase of South Africa jabs. 

According to the former Labour leader, the West should have properly shared its vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of super-mutant strains such Omicron.  

The West had been warned of failures to distribute vaccine doses, but the West hadn’t been forewarned. However, only 3 per cent of those living in low income countries have been jabbed while the average of 60 percent in wealthy nations has been.     

Brown stated that Covid was spreading in the absence of mass vaccination. He also noted that new strains of Covid were emerging from the least developed countries. These variants are now at risk of infecting fully-vaccinated citizens of rich countries.