At least two governments in Europe and Africa confirmed earlier this week that they had found cases of individuals infected with the so-called “Omicron variant” of the Chinese coronavirus, before the outbreak of this strain in South Africa was first announced, Breitbart reports.
On Tuesday, government officials in the Netherlands revealed that their documented case of the Omicron variant was first found about a week before South Africa announced its first case. The person in question had returned to Amsterdam after traveling to South Africa. But the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment noted that it had also documented several more cases of the variant that lacked any ties to Africa.
And Nigeria revealed on Wednesday that it had discovered the Omicron variant in a sample from an infected patient in October; last week, two more travelers from South Africa tested positive for the same variant. Ifedayo Adetifa, the director-general of Nigeria’s Center for Disease Control, reported that “retrospective sequencing of the previously confirmed cases among travelers to Nigeria also identified the omicron variant among the sample collected in October 2021.”
In addition, officials in Belgium and Germany suggested that the Omicron variant was already spreading in both countries prior to the South African outbreak.
The exact origin of the Omicron strain remains unconfirmed. Officials in South Africa insist that the variant did not originate in their country, but was simply first documented there. South Africa has claimed that the first documented case was in Botswana; in response, government officials there claim that the original cases were not residents of Botswana, but diplomats from another nation, without disclosing the nation to which the diplomats belonged.
The emergence of this latest variant has led to a new wave of travel bans and lockdown measures, due to the strain allegedly being far more contagious than previous strains, while also being far less lethal than the already low-mortality Chinese virus. Joe Biden, who previously criticized President Donald Trump for his original travel bans after the first outbreak of the virus in China, implemented his own bans on a number of African nations after the announcement of the Omicron variant, including South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.