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Was the omicron variant spreading in October?

New research shows that the omicron variant was spreading before we originally thought

Photo of a woman in a recovery area of a new vaccination center.
A woman reads a book in the recovery area of a new vaccination center in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. The omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way to Nigeria after the country discovered cases among three travelers from South Africa, Nigeria’s public health institute said Wednesday.
Armando Franca, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the coronavirus has made its way to Nigeria after the country discovered cases among three travelers from South Africa, Nigeria’s public health institute said Wednesday.

The Nigeria Center for Disease Control originally said Wednesday that it had discovered three cases of omicron in samples from October. However, the institute later retracted the announcement, saying the samples showed the delta variant, according to The New York Times.

Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, the director-general for Nigeria’s public health institute, said in a statement that the omicron variant was still found in travelers from South Africa.

  • “Follow up to ensure isolation, linkage to clinical care, contact tracing and other relevant response activities have commenced,” he said.

This is only another sign that the coronavirus variant has made its way to another country. On top of that, it raises more questions about the potential timeline of the variant’s spread.

Dutch health authorities said Tuesday that the omicron variant was detected in cases from almost two weeks ago, which was days before South African researchers announced the omicron variant’s 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.

South African researchers sounded the alarm bells over Thanksgiving after the discovery of the B.1.1.529 variant, which was later renamed omicron by the World Health Organization, on Nov. 24. The omicron variant allegedly has dozens of mutations, which has worried experts about its potential for spread and evasion of vaccines, as I wrote for the Deseret News.