Court hearing set for 22 March as authorities hold emergency meetings to review screening process at Rotterdam’s port
Dutch border officials have begun a large-scale re-examination of all incoming cargoes to check for microscopic traces of the deadly virus corneogen-19.
They found that 61 migrants from South Africa had since tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, known to cause a high fever, stomach pains and flu-like symptoms, who had stayed in the Netherlands.
“We take it very seriously,” said Colonel Char van der Kolk, head of the Dutch National Anti-Aircraft Squad, which is responsible for checking all incoming cargoes at Rotterdam’s port.
The high number of positive tests underscores the challenges facing the Netherlands and Europe as a whole as more migrants fleeing conflicts and poverty begin to arrive in the region, hoping to cross into northern Europe and reach the UK or Scandinavia.
Traces of a toxic agent at port: Dutch authorities to step up bioterror war on EU Read more
On Thursday Van der Kolk, alongside deputy agency CEO Volker Hanecke, met Dutch, foreign and transport ministers in an emergency session to discuss the screening processes.
Authorities are holding a hearing in the Rotterdam district court on 22 March where they are expected to set a date for the criminal prosecution of the foreigners.
The biological weapon was discovered in December, when the Dutch navy pulled three people off a cargo ship carrying suspect Ebola-like virus residue from the port of Rotterdam.
While it cannot be transmitted through the air or direct contact with bodily fluids, the virus does cause fatal disease in humans and animals, including pigs, penguins and sea lions.
Van der Kolk said authorities were looking for documents showing where the unnamed migrants had been staying and had traced all migrant groups to which the cases belonged.
They have not found any indication that the viruses were spread by any kind of transportation, including by air.
“All the passengers have left the Netherlands,” he added.