The Dutch health ministry said that up to 85 passengers on two flights from South Africa could test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the Netherlands on Friday morning.
Around 600 passengers have been tested so far and around 15 have returned positive. Despite mandatory pre-departure testing, the Dutch health ministry believes it will find around 85 positive cases.
The local health authorities said that the positive test results will be examined to see if the new worrisome variant is related.
The passengers on the two flights were stuck on the aircraft for hours after arriving at Amsterdam's Schipol airport.
The flights had left South Africa just as Europe was starting to worry about the Omicron variant. The Delta variant is more transmissible than the variant.
Omicron has become the most popular variant in the province. The variant is believed to be behind a recent surge in new COVID-19 infections which could be the start of a fourth wave in South Africa.
The Dutch government imposed a travel ban on South Africa after the flights landed. Passengers were not allowed to leave the plane until a decision was made about what to do with them.
The health officials decided to take passengers to a secure location within the airport where they would all be tested for COVID-19 despite having already provided pre-departure tests.
Passengers who have a positive test result will be taken to a hotel and their travel companions will be allowed to self-isolated.
Passengers with a negative result and an onward connection will be allowed to continue their journeys despite being in close contact with positive cases.
A New York Times health reporter was a passenger on a plane that was stuck in Amsterdam and gave a detailed account of her experience.
Nolen wrote that she was in her 3d hour on the tarmac at Schipol. Europe went into variant panic when I was in Jo'burg and we weren't allowed off the plane. They won't let a truck bring water.
Nolen joined a long queue to be tested after being bussed with the other passengers. I have been tested after two hours in a line. We don't know when we get results or what comes next. Airport authorities have yet to sort out the food and water issues and so there is some hysteria among passengers.
Noeln was allowed to wait for another flight to Canada after she tested negative at the airport.
The travel ban on non-Dutch and EU citizens was part of the protocol that led to the decision to continue flying to South Africa.
The airline said that it will prioritize the safety of passengers and crew. Passengers and crew will be required to meet strict on-board safety requirements. The protocol will be in line with the requirements of the governments.