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The omicron COVID-19 variant was in Europe before South Africa, scientists reveal

Where did the omicron variant come from?

A child wears face mask in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
A youngster puts his face mask on as he talks with friends in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands, on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, after a tougher COVID-19 related lockdown came into effect starting Sunday 5 p.m., moving closing time forward of three hours amid swiftly rising infections and ICU admissions.
Peter Dejong, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus was in Europe before South African scientists discovered it over Thanksgiving weekend.

Dutch health authorities said Tuesday they found the omicron variant in cases dating back 11 days, which suggests that the variant had already started spreading in the country well before South African researchers announced its discovery.

  • “It is not yet clear whether the people concerned (in the earlier cases) have also been to southern Africa,” said the RIVM health institute, a Dutch health authority, per CBS News.
  • “In the coming period, various studies will be conducted into the distribution of the Omicron variant in the Netherlands,” the institute said.
  • The RIVM said it would review previous COVID-19 test results to see if omicron popped up there as well.

This discovery of omicron cases suggests that the variant might have been spreading around the world, complicating the research into the variant’s true origins.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country has been punished with travel bans and restrictions because it discovered the variant — even though so much is still unknown about the variant, per NPR.

South African researchers announced the discovery of the B.1.1.529, on Nov. 24. The variant allegedly had dozens of mutations, which prompted immediate concert from experts, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • The World Health Organization classified the variant as a variant of concern, giving it the name omicron after the letter in the Greek alphabet.