By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
The latest arrests were made on a plane in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just before it departed to Spain on Sunday, officials said.
A Spanish man and Portuguese woman were later handed over to the country’s health service in a move that critics reminded to autocratic ruled nations.
It comes after 13 people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa last week tested positive for the new coronavirus variant. They were among 61 passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.
Many were held for many long hours far removed from the welcoming, liberal nation the Netherlands wants to be known for, witnesses said. Passengers were confronted with circumstances comparable to impoverished countries and hardline-regimes, witnesses and footage obtained by Worthy News revealed.
“Someday, I may appreciate the irony in this situation,” said New York Times veteran reporter Stephanie Nolen who was among the stranded passengers at Schiphol airport.
“For now, I’m in my fourth hour trapped on the tarmac at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, where officials will not allow so much as a catering truck to bring us water,” she noticed. “And an appreciation for irony is elusive.”
She said her flight took off nearly 16 hours earlier from Johannesburg, “where people were abuzz with news of the discovery of a coronavirus variant” spreading in South Africa.
This “Omicron” variant has many mutations, “in particular on the spike protein that helps it enter human cells, and is moving relatively quickly around Johannesburg,” she reported.
“Europe panicked while I was somewhere over the Sahara; by the time we landed, we were told we would not be permitted off the plane.”
The well-informed health reporter wrote that the “irony lies in the fact that I was in South Africa to report on the risk of variants emerging in countries with low vaccination coverage.”
She noticed, however, the “impressive, multilayered approach South Africa is using to try to protect global public health.” The reporter complained that the Dutch are punishing South Africa for its transparency.
“The prevailing sentiment among these restive, and thirsty, people is that South Africa is being punished for having some of the world’s most advanced study of infectious disease,” she wrote. It’s “a legacy of its battle with H.I.V. — and for being transparent, quickly, about what it learns,” the reporter added.
Craving for food and water “Passengers are reading aloud to each other from news stories that say Europe intends to put us all into mandatory 14-day quarantine. Regardless of our vaccination status or test results,” Nolen said.
“From our windows, we can see a flight from Cape Town, also parked out here, stuck in limbo.”
The journalist who reported from 80 nations said, “I spent time in the labs of the same scientists who, yesterday, made the announcement that has left me, hostage, with a planeload of strangers while “the authorities” somewhere debate what to do with us.”
The reporter stressed that “Everyone on this flight had to show proof of a negative COVID test; most, it seems, are fully vaccinated, as I am. (We’ve all had time to chat.).”
But that wasn’t enough for the Dutch authorities treating passengers as annoying cattle, witnesses suggested. Nolen even had to plea for help from her many followers on social networking site Twitter saying that she “can’t get a copy of my alleged negative test (and thus can’t leave)” to Canada. “And am wondering if anyone else has this problem,” adding that she wants advice on how you solve this issue.
For now, she had plenty of time to make her way through “the mountain of research that South African scientists shared with me.”
She eventually made it to Canada.
However, her ordeal came amid mounting pressure on the Dutch government to explain what critics call hasty and unscientific decisions to introduce one of Europe’s toughest curfews.
Most venues in the Netherlands are closed between 5:00 pm, and 05:00 am as part of what the government claims are efforts to combat rising infection cases.
Protestors say the government has refused to increase intensive care beds, which hover around 1,000 on a population of more than 17 million.
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