Since 12 noon, flights to the Netherlands from countries in southern Africa have been banned. The outgoing cabinet has decided this in response to the newly discovered variant of the corona virus. Other EU member states have also taken similar measures: the European Commission called this morning for an emergency shutdown of air traffic from southern Africa.
The Netherlands has designated the countries in the region concerned as countries with a very high risk. This means, among other things, that a quarantine obligation will apply, just like a ‘double test obligation’. According to Minister De Jonge, there are still two flights en route from southern Africa.
He added that Dutch nationals who are now in the area always have the right to return to their country, but they are therefore obliged to go into quarantine and be tested. The exact consequences for flights to southern Africa still have to be worked out. There may be more information about that later today.
‘Can go fast’
De Jonge further said that the variant has not yet been established in the Netherlands. “At the same time, we know from other variants how fast something like this can go, so we have to slow down the arrival of this variant as much as possible.”
There are reports that the new variant is more contagious than previous variants. The minister said that there is still a lot of uncertainty about this and that it remains to be seen what the experts say about it. “What we need to do now is act as a precaution.”
The emergency shutdown of air traffic proposed by the European Commission will be submitted to the member states during the day, President von der Leyen said on Twitter. It appears to be a total ban on at least passenger flights from the south of Africa, but the details of the plan are not yet known.
Somewhere in the coming days, a crisis meeting is expected from the member states to streamline the policy. But the EU countries are free to introduce travel bans themselves; ultimately this decision is always up to the Member States themselves.
WHO opposes rapid entry bans
Several Member States have introduced or announced entry bans today. The WHO has spoken out against the imposition of such measures and advocates a science-based approach.
In addition, Italy and the Czech Republic have also announced that they will ban travelers from Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. This concerns people who have been in these African countries in the past fourteen days.
Tonight, an entry ban for travelers from South Africa will also come into effect in Germany. Only people with a German passport will soon be allowed to fly back from South Africa. They must be quarantined for 14 days on arrival, regardless of whether the passengers have been vaccinated, Health Minister Spahn reports.
Since the start of the pandemic, the EU has banned entry to high-risk countries outside Europe, including South Africa. But there are several exceptions to this, for example for business travel.