Couple nabbed after fleeing Dutch hotel for Covid-19-positive passengers from S. Africa

Health workers transporting passengers infected with Covid-19 returning from South Africa in the Netherlands on Nov 27, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch border police said on Sunday (Nov 28) that they arrested a couple on a plane after they fled a quarantine hotel where Covid-positive passengers from South African flights were staying.

The drama came after the Dutch authorities said that 61 people who arrived on two flights tested positive for the coronavirus, 13 of them with the new Omicron variant.

One of the members of the couple had tested positive for Covid-19 and went into isolation, while the other person was negative but in quarantine, according to Public health authority spokeswoman Stefanie van Waardenburg.

She added that both were back in isolation, but not at the same hotel.

They are a Spanish man, 30 and a Portuguese woman, aged 28, police spokesman Stan Verberkt told AFP.

"The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee at Schiphol has arrested a couple this evening who had fled from a quarantine hotel," Mr Verberkt said.

"The arrests took place in a plane that was about to take off. They were on a plane that was about to depart for Spain at around 6pm," he added.

The pair had been handed over to the public health authority, Mr Verberkt confirmed.

It was not known how the couple left the hotel or how the alarm was raised.

The Dutch authorities announced stricter new travel protocols on Friday as alarm mounted around the world about the new Omicron variant, which first emerged in southern Africa.

The 600 people on the two South Africa flights on Friday spent most of the day stuck at the airport being tested in conditions that one person described as "dystopia central".

Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge had said just hours earlier that the authorities in the Netherlands would ensure that people obeyed quarantine rules.

The Covid-19-positive passengers are almost all at the hotel, while a small number have been allowed to go into home quarantine. Passengers who tested negative have also been ordered into home quarantine.

"We will control whether they keep to those rules," Mr de Jonge told reporters.

The health minister added that it could not be excluded that more people than the initial 13 had contracted the Omicron variant.

"We are concerned, but how much we should be at this stage we don't know yet," Mr De Jonge said.

Police and security guards were on guard at the quarantine hotel, a spokeswoman for the local mayor said earlier.

"The security is there for a reason," she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.