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COVID-19

Spanish woman who escaped Omicron quarantine hotel claimed they were ‘treated like dogs’

Dutch authorities placed a couple in isolation in hospital after they absconded from a quarantine hotel following their arrival from South Africa, as the pair reportedly said on Monday they had been “treated like dogs”.

The Ramada Hotel where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP
The Ramada Hotel where Dutch authorities have isolated 61 passengers who tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

Border police said the Portuguese man and Spanish woman were arrested on board a Spain-bound plane at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Sunday.

They were among dozens of people quarantined in an airport hotel after 61 passengers on two KLM flights from South Africa on Friday tested positive for Covid-19 — 14 of them with the new Omicron variant.

“We heard that people left the hotel, unfortunately, even if they were advised to stay there. So we had to take action and we made the arrest,” Robert van Kapel, spokesman for the border police at Schiphol Airport, told AFP.

“Now they are in a place where they are isolated, in a hospital,” he said.

The couple, Carolina Pimenta and Andres Sanz, told Dutch broadcaster RTL that they had both tested negative for coronavirus before leaving South Africa, but she had tested positive on arrival during a stopover in Amsterdam on the way home to Spain.

They insisted that after days of asking for a re-test, and two negative self-tests, a Dutch health authority official and a security guard at the Ramada quarantine hotel had said they should leave and would not get into trouble.

“The suggestion that we escaped from quarantine is too ridiculous for words. Nobody told us what the rules are, we were treated like dogs,” Pimenta, who said she was a biomedical researcher, was quoted as saying by RTL.

“I know how important it is that everyone abide by the rules in this crisis,” she said.

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Border police then offloaded her from a flight to Spain on the tarmac, she said, adding that she was taken “with much fuss and screaming… like a criminal.”

A spokeswoman for the mayor of the local Haarlemmermeer municipality confirmed the couple were “in a hospital in the Netherlands” and said they were now under investigation for a possible crime.

“These people were asked a first time to stay in the hotel, then they were asked a second time, urgently, now they are in isolation. What they did was not really wise,” spokeswoman Petra Faber told AFP.

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

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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