“It is not unlikely more cases will appear in the Netherlands,” health minister Hugo de Jonge said at a press conference in Rotterdam. “This could possibly be the tip of the iceberg.”

The Dutch investigation began with testing of all the people who arrived on the two flights from SA at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Friday, before the Dutch government changed its rules on air traffic from Southern Africa due to concerns over the variant. 

The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation, has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year Covid-19 pandemic.

Dutch health authorities are also seeking to contact and test some 5,000 other passengers who have travelled from SA, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday.

Worries over the variant come as many European countries are already grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases.

In the Netherlands, rules go into effect on Sunday mandating the closure of bars, restaurants and most stores at 5pm in an attempt to reverse a record-breaking wave of Covid-19 cases that is swamping the healthcare system.

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