Tests suggest variant was already present in Holland for at least a week before the arrival of two flights from South Africa on Friday, and before the World Health Organization labeled Omicron a “variant of concern.”
The timing is significant because it suggests that the variant was already present in the country for at least a week before the arrival of two flights from South Africa on Friday, and before the World Health Organization labeled Omicron a “variant of concern,” the step that prompted countries around the world to ban flights from southern Africa, where researchers first identified the variant.
“We have found the Omicron coronavirus variant in two test samples that were taken on Nov. 19 and Nov. 23,” the Dutch health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is not yet clear whether these people had also visited southern Africa.”
The two samples were taken by municipal health services at public testing sites, and health authorities have started contact tracing in those areas, Dutch health officials said.
Although little is known yet about how transmissible Omicron is, or whether it can evade existing vaccines, its discovery in Botswana and South Africa has created the most uncertain moment of the pandemic since the highly contagious Delta variant emerged in the spring.
© Copyright LaPresse