New data is revealing a different timeline of when the Omicron variant first started spreading across the globe –– and it may not begin in South Africa.
Dutch scientists announced Tuesday (November 30) that Covid-19 tests from November 19 and 23 prove the Omicron variant was already spreading in Europe before researchers in South Africa detected and identified the new strain and alerted the world.
The tests, they said, also predate samples taken from passengers who traveled from South Africa and were tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport Friday (November 26).
“It is not yet clear,” the RIVM Health Institute said, if the earlier tests involve people who also traveled to South Africa, but they’ve been informed for their positive Omicron tests and “local health services had started contact tracing.”
The Netherlands isn’t the only country to confirm Omicron variant before South Africa’s alert. Health officials in Belgium and Germany both confirmed the presence of the new variant as early as November 24, CBS reported.
News of the variant’s prior spread comes after South African researchers were praised for their state-of-the-art genetic sequencing technology that led to the discovery. But leaders across Africa have condemned the swiftly-imposed travel bans on multiple African countries following the researchers’ discovery.
So far, the variant has been detected in at least 20 countries across the globe as scientists work to study its transmissibility rate and vaccine resistance.
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