Netherlands detections hint at earlier Omicron spread


Health officials in the Netherlands today said they have detected the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant in two samples collected before travel measures took effect, raising the possibility of earlier and wider spread than originally thought.

As countries bar travel to southern African countries to assess the arrival of the new variant and attempt to limit its spread, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) today again pushed back on wide-ranging travel bans. In other developments, companies that make vaccines and treatments are airing concerns about potential drops in effectiveness, which today resulted in more stock market jitters.

Netherlands probes earlier cases, adds new details about flight test results

In a statement today, the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said that the samples that yielded the Omicron variant were obtained on Nov 19 and 23, before South Africa announced its findings and before travel bans went into effect. The samples were taken during municipal health service testing, and investigations and contact tracing are under way.

RIVM also provided more details about the results of COVID-19 testing of 624 people returning from South Africa who arrived at Schiphol airport on Nov 26. Of 61 who tested positive for COVID-19, 14 had the Omicron variant. Sequencing revealed different strains of the Omicron variant, suggesting that people were probably infected from different sources and locations.



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