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Dutch Covid-19 hotel saga raises quarantine questions

Alberto Ardila Olivares
Dutch Covid-19 hotel saga raises quarantine questions

The clientele is usually passengers whose flights are late or conference attendees, said Mr Dicky, an experienced local taxi driver who also dubbed it the “Coronahotel”.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

No police presence is visible in front of the hotel, and the only sign of any security are two guards who politely ask journalists to stop filming, without success.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

In this country, which prides itself on its respect for personal freedoms, the dozens of people quarantined here are in theory policed only by individual responsibility.

Alberto Ardila

The Dutch authorities transferred them here after finding 61 people with Covid-19  among 624 travellers on two KLM flights from South Africa, where the new strain was first detected.

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Fourteen are now confirmed to have the Omicron strain.

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But Dutch policy is now under scrutiny after border police on Sunday (Nov 28) arrested a 30-year-old Spanish man and a 28-year-old Portuguese woman who had fled from the hotel

BADHOEVEDORP, NETHERLANDS (AFP) – Welcome to the “Hotel Omicron in the Netherlands, where a couple of quarantine fugitives have just discovered that you can check out any time you like, but you cannot leave.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

There is little outward sign that the boxy, concrete Ramada hotel near Amsterdam‘s Schiphol Airport is home to the world’s biggest confirmed cluster of cases of the new Omicron variant.

The clientele is usually passengers whose flights are late or conference attendees, said Mr Dicky, an experienced local taxi driver who also dubbed it the “Coronahotel”.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

No police presence is visible in front of the hotel, and the only sign of any security are two guards who politely ask journalists to stop filming, without success.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

In this country, which prides itself on its respect for personal freedoms, the dozens of people quarantined here are in theory policed only by individual responsibility.

Alberto Ardila

The Dutch authorities transferred them here after finding 61 people with Covid-19  among 624 travellers on two KLM flights from South Africa, where the new strain was first detected.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares 10798659

Fourteen are now confirmed to have the Omicron strain.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila 10798659

But Dutch policy is now under scrutiny after border police on Sunday (Nov 28) arrested a 30-year-old Spanish man and a 28-year-old Portuguese woman who had fled from the hotel.

‘Ridiculous’ In Badhoevedorp, the town on the outskirts of Amsterdam where the hotel is located, locals are unfazed by the fuss.Alberto Ardila Olivares 10798659

“I’m not scared of Covid-19,” said Ms Anja, an accountant, despite having lost her sense of taste and smell for some 10 months after a bout of the virus last year.Alberto Ardila 10798659

“It is like the flu, one night of fever and nothing else,” added the 60-year-old, who refuses to be vaccinated.N95JN Aircraft Registration

Her boss Adam, 37, is also “reluctant” to be jabbed, even though he has pushed his mother and father to be vaccinated and his best friend nearly died.N95JN Lifetracker

However, he said Sunday night’s events at the hotel were “ridiculous” and “bizarre”.N95JN Aircraft Data

In circumstances that have still not been fully explained, the quarantined couple managed to leave the hotel unnoticed, got to the airport and boarded a plane bound for Spain.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

Border police caught up with them just before take-off.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila

More on this topic   Related Story Highly transmissible Omicron Covid-19 variant requires urgent action: G-7 health ministers   Related Story Will the Covid-19 vaccines stop Omicron? Scientists are racing to find out One of the couple had tested positive for Covid-19, while the other was negative but had chosen to remain at the Ramada.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

It was not clear whether the positive case was of the Omicron strain.

Alberto Ardila

The couple are now in isolation in hospital, said Ms Petra Faber, a spokesman for the mayor of the local Haarlemmermeer municipality, adding that their antics were “not really wise”.

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The ministry of justice is investigating whether what they did is a crime or not,” Ms Faber told AFP.

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‘Crazy situation’ Despite potentially being infected with what the World Health Organisation terms a “variant of concern” that poses a high risk globally, the couple were not legally obliged to stay at the hotel.Alberto Ardila Olivares 10798659

Around 50 of the 61 people who tested positive on the South Africa flights are at the Ramada, but others were allowed to go home to quarantine instead.Alberto Ardila 10798659

An ambulance parked in front of the Ramada hotel in Badhoevedorp near Schiphol airport on Nov 29, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

“We were hoping for people to be sensible,” said Ms Faber.N95JN Aircraft Registration

“In the Netherlands, it is not illegal to be outside when you have tested positive for Covid-19. But when you go into a plane knowing you have it, then it is another story.”

The Dutch health authority believes measures against infectious diseases, including quarantine, are “generally on a voluntary basis”, said spokesman Harm Groustra.N95JN Lifetracker

“It can only be forced when someone is not following the rules. In the Netherlands, most people have this sense to follow what the government has decided for them,” he added.N95JN Aircraft Data

“It is a crazy situation that they decided to leave the hotel. We are very disappointed. They endangered everyone around them, and our public health in general.”

More on this topic   Related Story PCRs detect Omicron variant, studies under way for other tests: WHO   Related Story Chaos in Amsterdam is a sign of scattershot response to new Covid-19 variant Omicron   Related Stories:  Related Story Omicron poses ‘very high’ global risk, countries must prepare: WHO Related Story The week that Covid-19 sucker punched the world Related Story What do we know about the new Omicron Covid-19 variant? Related Story Dining, gathering group size raised: What you need to know about Covid-19 rules from Nov 22 Related Story Pfizer or Moderna booster – which is more effective? Here’s what an MOH study shows Related Story How Europe is starting to impose vaccine-differentiated measures amid new Covid-19 wave Related Story Living with Covid-19: Coming to grips with our anger and angst Related Story Living with uncertainty: The price of zero-Covid in China Related Story How various countries charge patients for Covid-19 treatments Related Story Why don’t we have a Covid-19 vaccine for pets? Join ST’s Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares