Despite the Netherlands banning passengers arriving on flights from southern Africa, KLM has said it intends to keep flying from Amsterdam to South Africa. The Dutch government has banned the ban entry of people from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe after a new variant of COVID-19 was discovered.
Named “Omicron” by the World Health Organization, the fear is that it is more contagious than the current Delta variant and that the vaccines in use may be ineffective. In a statement from KLM released on November 26, the airline says that it will continue flying to Johannesburg and Cape Town despite the travel ban.
Passengers must meet specific criteria
Passengers on flights inbound from South Africa will only be allowed to enter the Netherlands if they meet the following criteria:
- Dutch passports, EU citizens, Schengen residents
- Medical emergency staff
- Ship crew
- Airline staff
- People who are traveling under exceptional circumstances, such as family emergencies
People arriving from South Africa who comply with the above exceptions must also meet the following requirements to travel:
- A negative PCR/NAAT test that is less than 24 hours old when going onboard and less than 48 hours old when arriving in the Netherlands. Alternatively, a negative PCR/NAAT test that is less than 48 hours old before departure to the Netherlands, as well as a negative rapid test that is less than 24 hours old when boarding the flight.
- A compulsory 10-day quarantine on arrival in the Netherlands is reduced to five days if a negative test is obtained after five days via the GGD public health authorities.
KLM says that while it continues to fly to South Africa, it is taking the situation very seriously and is implementing strict onboard procedures to protect the safety of the crew and other passengers.
How long KLM will continue to fly to South Africa remains to be seen after 61 people tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving on flights from South Africa on Friday. Those passengers who tested positive are now being quarantined at a hotel close to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS).
Over a dozen of these passengers, 13 currently, have been found to have the Omicron variant of COVID. This figure could rise in the coming days, raising doubts on how long KLM will maintain flights.
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The Netherlands has imposed a lockdown
As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Europe, the Netherlands imposed new lockdown measures to help protect its hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. These measures have been in effect since before the new variant, as cases rise to record levels. The lockdown has already impacted KLM’s passenger count.
However, the airline is still keeping open essential links to bring travelers home. While many countries have banned travel from southern Africa, there are still thousands of foreign nationals trapped in those countries hoping to get home.
Omicron is now present in several countries
It is not just the Netherlands that is worried about an uptick in cases with the new Omicron variant forcing governments to act fast to protect their populations. People infected with Omicron have been found in Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
To help protect its citizens, Israel has decided to ban foreigners from entering the country for 14 days while it learns more about how contagious Omicron is and whether or not current vaccines offer protection against the new strain.
What do you think about KLM still flying to South Africa? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.