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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.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.