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Couple Arrested After Leaving Quarantine, Boarding Flight Following South Africa Vacation

Newsweek logo Newsweek 11/29/2021 Katie Wermus
A picture taken on November 29, 2021 at the Schiphol airport shows an appointment desk for Covid-19 test. - Dutch health authorities said November 29 they have found another case of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant among passengers arriving from South Africa, bringing the total to 14. "With the help of sequencing, it has now been confirmed in 14 people that it is the Omicron variant," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament. © Kenzo Tribouillard/ AFP/Getty Images A picture taken on November 29, 2021 at the Schiphol airport shows an appointment desk for Covid-19 test. - Dutch health authorities said November 29 they have found another case of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant among passengers arriving from South Africa, bringing the total to 14. "With the help of sequencing, it has now been confirmed in 14 people that it is the Omicron variant," Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament.

A married couple was arrested Sunday for attempting to fly out of the Netherlands after leaving mandatory quarantine when one of them tested positive for COVID-19 following a flight from their South African vacation, the Associated Press reported.

Caroline Pimenta had a layover in Amsterdam on Friday with her husband, Andres Sanz, and was put in a hotel for mandatory isolation after she tested positive after vacationing in Cape Town, the couple told TV3.

Pimenta said that Dutch authorities cleared her to travel after three days of isolation instead of the usual five because she had COVID less than six months ago. But they were arrested after boarding a flight that was taking them back home to Spain.

"We were transparent at all times, I showed all the documents, we entered [the plane] and suddenly they called me and the police very aggressively treated us like criminals when they had given us the go-ahead, all without informing us at all," Pimenta told TV3.

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A total of 624 people arrived on two flights Friday from South Africa at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Sixty-one passengers tested positive for COVID-19. At least 13 of them have the new Omicron variant.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

A spokeswoman for the local security authority that covers Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport said Monday that an investigation was underway into whether the couple had committed a crime and should be prosecuted.

"Quarantine is not obligatory, but we assume people will act responsibly," spokeswoman Petra Faber said. "But there was a couple that wanted to go home and they tried to fly home. The Royal Marechaussee took them off the plane and handed them back to the local health authority."

When authorities heard the couple had left the hotel, the head of the local security authority, Marianne Schuurmans, quickly signed an isolation order that empowered the Marechaussee police force to detain the couple.

"These people they are now in enforced isolation no longer in our municipality, but in a hospital elsewhere in the Netherlands," Faber said.

The couple said they appeared to have been caught up in the improvisation of travel rules that followed news of the new variant.

Authorities, citing privacy rules, declined to give more detail about the couple or whether they had tested positive for the Omicron variant.

Schuurmans told Dutch broadcaster WNL that "it is incomprehensible that people who had tested positive would do this."

Exterior view of the hotel in Badhoevedorp near Schiphol Airport, Netherlands, where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 people who tested positive for COVID-19 on two arriving flights originating from South Africa, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Authorities are carrying out further investigations to see if any of the travelers have the omicron variant. Peter Dejong/AP Photo © Peter Dejong/AP Photo Exterior view of the hotel in Badhoevedorp near Schiphol Airport, Netherlands, where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 people who tested positive for COVID-19 on two arriving flights originating from South Africa, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Authorities are carrying out further investigations to see if any of the travelers have the omicron variant. Peter Dejong/AP Photo

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