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AT least thirteen people have tested positive for the new Omicron Covid variant after landing in Amsterdam on a flight from South Africa.

Dutch health authorities have confirmed 61 passengers are quarantining as they are infected with the coronavirus - with at least 13 cases of the new super strain.

5Dozens of passengers aboard flights from South Africa to Amsterdam have tested positive for CovidCredit: AP 5The Red Cross took those infected into quarantine last nightCredit: EPA

"The Omicron variant has so far been identified in 13 of the positive tests.

The investigation has not yet been completed. The new variant may be found in more test samples," the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said in a statement.

The passengers were among 600 to arrive at Schiphol Airport on two KLM flights on Friday.

It comes after the mutant strains reportedly arrived in Germany.

Health chiefs say it's overwhelmingly likely that "very high risk" Omicron is in Germany already after a traveller tested positive for a mutated form of the deadly bug.

Fears are intensifying over the Omicron variant - believed by experts to be the "worst variant ever".

Health chiefs said: "Travellers with a positive test result will be placed in isolation at a hotel at or near Schiphol.

"Of the positive test results, we are researching as quickly as possible whether they are the new variant of concern, now named 'Omicron'."

The Dutch government banned all air travel from southern Africa early on Friday.

However, health minister Hugo de Jonge said passengers already en route to the Netherlands would be allowed into the country after undergoing testing and quarantine.


Passengers on the two KLM flights, from Cape Town and Johannesburg, said they were kept waiting on the tarmac for hours.

New York Times journalist Stephanie Nolen, a passenger on a flight from Johannesburg who later tested negative, reported a "huge queue" to see Covid testers.

In Germany - which looks set to head back into lockdown as Covid cases spiral - a minister in western state Hesse said Omicron has already arrived.

"Last night several Omicron-typical mutations were found in a traveller returning from South Africa," tweeted Kai Klose.

The state is home to busy Frankfurt Airport.

EU health chiefs have warned the new mutation poses a "high to very high" risk to Europe.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says there's “considerable uncertainty related to the transmissibility, vaccine effectiveness, risk for reinfections and other properties of the Omicron variant.”


Yesterday, video emerged of travellers being told they couldn't get off a plane in Amsterdam after the first European case was confirmed in Belgium.

They were finally allowed off the jet after being tested and leaving their details with contact tracers.

Some nations, including Germany, are believed to be bracing for a 'Code Black' scenario - meaning medics will have to choose who gets treatment and who doesn't.

The situation could soon worsen if Omicron spreads, it's feared.

The strain has officially been named a "variant of concern" by the WHO.

And in the UK, a hunt has begun for hundreds of passengers who have recently arrived from South Africa.

Sajid Javid urged anyone who has arrived in the country from South Africa in recent days to take a PCR test as quickly as possible.

Boris Johnson is also preparing to introduce further additions to the six South African countries added to Britain's red list on Friday.

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Elsewhere, a state of emergency has been declared in New York, and President Joe Biden has banned travel from eight African countries.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told his officials to review plans to ease travel restrictions, but tighten border sreening.

The country is the world's second-worst affected by the pandemic. The government only decided yesterday to resume international flights from countries deemed 'at risk' of the virus.

5Hundreds of people queued for Covid tests after flying into Schiphol yesterdayCredit: Reuters 5The Dutch government banned all flights from South Africa - but allowed in passengers already in the air when the decision was madeCredit: Reuters 5Six South African countries are now on the UK's 'red list' Fears Covid super-strain Omicron is already in UK as 1st case confirmed in Europe and passengers banned from leaving plane

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Tags: coronavirus flights from south africa have tested positive south african countries as quickly as possible the omicron variant the omicron variant variant of concern the positive test on a flight the new variant the positive the new variant health chiefs passengers health chiefs in passengers super strain in amsterdam confirmed travel the country new omicron a traveller the country new omicron

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Environmentalists meet in South Africa to stem plastic waste

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Environmental activists are gathering in South Africa this week to press governments and businesses to reduce the production of plastic because it is harming the continent’s environment.

The conference, “Towards Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa,” being held in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), South Africa, through Friday brings together academics and experts on the plastics industry and its effects on the continent, say organizers.

The participants are focusing on the actions needed to stop plastics from ruining Africa’s land and seas, say the organizers, the African Marine Waste Network. The conference follows the United Nations Environmental Assembly’s resolution for the development of a legally binding treaty on plastic waste by 2024.

Despite a growing recycling industry, plastic waste is piling up in Africa’s landfill sites, clogging stormwater drainage systems and polluting rivers and oceans.

Africa has an average waste collection rate of 55% but only 4% of it is recycled, according to a report by the U.N. and the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa.

This is way below the African Union’s target for the continent’s cities to recycle at least 50% of their waste by next year.

In Johannesburg — South Africa’s most populous city with more than 6 million people — the landfill sites are fast reaching capacity. The municipality collects up to 40,000 tons of general waste including plastic every month, according to its waste management agency Pikitup.

The city’s four landfill sites will be full in three years, forcing them to find more landfill sites, officials say.

“Plastic is not biodegradable … so it lives for a very long time. It eats up our landfill space and is very difficult to compact,” said Pikitup spokesman Muzi Mkhwanazi.

In 2018 the city made it mandatory for residents to separate plastic from other waste, but not many are practicing that.

Johannesburg’s biggest landfill site in Turffontein is a hive of activity as waste trucks drop off garbage and waste pickers spread themselves across the area to pluck out plastics, cardboard, bottles and wood that can be sold to recyclers. The rest is crushed and then covered by new deliveries of waste.

Thousands of freelance waste pickers work on the streets of the sprawling metropolis as well as at the landfill site. They sort various types of garbage into what they can sell to recyclers in order to eke out a living. Others have paid employment at recycling centers.

Agnes Hlungwani says she has been supporting her family by sorting plastic waste at the Whole Earth Recycling plant. When her husband died in 2006 sorting waste was one of the only types of work she could get, she said.

“I sent my children to school and I have supported myself. My husband is no longer around, but the children are grown up now, all because of this job,” said Hlungwani.

Waste campaigner Musa Chamane told The Associated Press that the conference is necessary to press decision-makers in businesses, governments and municipalities to reduce plastic waste.

Whole Earth Recycling manager Carmen Jordaan said campaigns are needed to press industries and ordinary residents to reduce plastic waste.

“Although there is sorting that takes place at the landfill, it is not ideal as it is mixed with food waste, medical waste and that’s not hygienic,” she said. “If we can stop using non-recyclable plastics in our packaging material and encourage more people to start recycling we will have a better rate of recycling.”

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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