Two flights arrived in the Netherlands on Friday, bearing some 600 passengers from South Africa, and also a good number of COVID cases—and those people are now being tested to see if they've got the newly emerging omicron variant. Reuters reports that 61 of the flights' passengers who showed up at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, before the country shut down travel from the southern part of Africa, tested positive. All passengers from both flights are being kept apart from other travelers, while those with COVID infections were isolated in a hotel near the airport. Dutch health officials say they're trying to get in touch with anyone who's traveled from seven south African countries—South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe—since Monday to recommend they get tested.
In terms of omicron making its way to this side of the pond, "no cases of this variant have been identified in the US to date," the CDC said Friday, per CNBC. The agency says it's "continuously monitoring variants" and that if omicron does pop up, it expects the variant "to be identified quickly," thanks to the surveillance system in place. The UK isn't quite so lucky in its case count: That nation's health secretary, Sajid Javid, says two people there have been found to be infected with the omicron variant, reports the Guardian. The individuals are said to be self-isolating with their households, per Javid. Axios reports the cases also appear to be linked, with travel to South Africa involved, according to the UK's health agency.
Meanwhile, BioNTech, which developed its coronavirus vaccine with Pfizer, says it will know within two weeks whether the vaccine will work against omicron, per the Financial Times. It notes the variant, which it's currently testing its vaccine on in the lab, "differs significantly from previously observed variants." "We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations," the company tells Insider. It says that it's been long working with Pfizer "to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant." (Read more COVID variants stories.)