Nov 30, 2021 - Health

Omicron variant in the Netherlands before being discovered in South Africa

Travelers from South Africa are tested for the coronavirus on arrival in a specially designed test street at Schiphol airport,
Travelers from South Africa are tested for the coronavirus on arrival at Schiphol airport, on Nov. 30. Photo: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Dutch health officials announced Tuesday that they have discovered two cases of the new Omicron variant in the country dating back to Nov. 19 and Nov. 23, days before the variant's detection was announced by South African scientists.

Why it matters: Although the Netherlands announced that it had discovered more than 10 Omicron cases last Sunday, the discovery of these new, older cases means the variant was already spreading in Western Europe before Omicron's existence was publicly known.

The big picture: While the cases announced over the weekend were traced to passengers who had recently traveled from southern Africa, officials said it's not yet clear whether that's the case with the older samples.

  • Those infected will be notified and local authorities will begin the process of contract tracing, per the press release from the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment.
  • "There will be various studies in the near future to monitor the spread of the Omicron variant in the Netherlands," the statement read, adding that retroactive tests will be performed on older COVID-19 samples.
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