|Update: As a follow-up to this story from yesterday, of the 61 passengers who tested positive for coronavirus from these two KLM flights, the omicron variant has been found in 13 of them, so that accounts for ~21% of the cases on these flights.|
Friday’s eventful KLM flights from South Africa
We’re seeing all kinds of new travel restrictions added as a result of the omicron coronavirus variant. Many countries are banning nonstop flights and travelers from South Africa, and some KLM passengers got caught up in that yesterday.
KLM operates flights from both Cape Town (KL598) and Johannesburg (KL592) to Amsterdam, and Friday’s flights were problematic. The Netherlands imposed a South Africa flight ban on Friday in light of the new variant, but at the time KLM flights were already enroute from South Africa to the Netherlands.
When the KLM flights landed at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, authorities weren’t sure what to do with these passengers. One flight was held on the tarmac for several hours, and a New York Times Global Health Reporter was even on the flight, live Tweeting the whole situation.
Eventually passengers were allowed to deplane, but then passengers had to undergo mandatory testing. And that’s where this story gets especially interesting, if you ask me.
At least 61 KLM passengers test positive for coronavirus
Of the roughly 600 passengers on the two flights, at least 61 people have tested positive for coronavirus, which is a positivity rate of around 10% (and presumably more people will test positive for coronavirus in the coming days). This is pretty wild, because it’s reported that passengers also had to show a negative coronavirus test result prior to travel, taken within 24 hours.
Passengers were kept at the airport until their coronavirus test results were available. Of the 61 passengers who tested positive, 13 tested positive for the new omicron variant, so that represents around 21% of the passengers.
Passengers who tested positive need to go into quarantine — those who live in the Netherlands can quarantine at home, while others were put into hotels. Those who tested negative have been told to quarantine for at least five days, though could continue their travels to their final destination.
What should we even make of this?
It’s pretty shocking to consider that 10% of passengers on these two KLM flights tested positive for coronavirus:
- Passengers had to get tested prior to travel, suggesting that they only started testing positive within the past 24-36 hours
- If anyone caught coronavirus on the plane, it’s unlikely that they’d test positive so quickly after contracting it, suggesting that most people testing positive had coronavirus before even getting on the plane
- We don’t know much about the omicron variant yet, but between vaccination, pre-travel testing, natural immunity, etc., you can’t help but wonder what’s going on that’s causing 10% of passengers to test positive
- While South Africa is seeing an increase in coronavirus cases, the number of passengers who tested positive for coronavirus is disproportionate to the epidemiological situation in the country (as of now)
I’ve written in the past about how coronavirus testing for travel is a shady business. Not only is it really easy to fake a coronavirus test result, but the providers that do the testing are also often questionable, in terms of analyzing test results, verifying that the person being tested is who they say they are, etc. I can’t help but wonder how many of the pre-travel testing results were legitimate…
Two KLM flights from South Africa yesterday made headlines, as the Netherlands banned flights from South Africa while these planes were enroute. In the end passengers were allowed to disembark in Amsterdam, but then had to be tested. At least 61 of the 600 passengers have tested positive for coronavirus. That’s an incredibly high number, especially when you consider that these passengers also had to be tested before travel.
What do you make of the positivity rate of KLM passengers from South Africa?