Belgium became the first European country to detect a confirmed case of the new variant of covid-19, which has been labeled Omicron, on Friday, Nov. 26. However, the country’s case has no links to Southern African countries according to a report.
“The patient infected with B.1.1.529 [the scientific name for omicron] is a young adult woman who developed symptoms 11 days after travelling to Egypt via Turkey. The patient had a high viral load at the time of diagnosis (Cq of 14,2),” the report by Belgium’s National Reference Laboratory stated.
“The patient did not report any link with South Africa or other Southern African countries. This patient had not previously been vaccinated and had not yet been infected. She developed flu-like symptoms, but does not present at this stage signs of severe disease,” the report continued.
Health officials in Belgium also noted the young woman the omicron variant was detected in was unvaccinated, developed symptoms and received a test on Nov. 22.
“The patient did not report high risk contacts outside her household. None of her household members have developed symptoms, but have nevertheless been referred for testing. An extended investigation will be launched,” the report said.
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While omicron was first detected in South Africa, experts say that does not mean it originated there. In its report, Belgium health officials said South Africa is known for having “one of the best genomic surveillance systems around the world, fueled by outstanding scientists and a very efficient network of collaborating laboratories.” Therefore, it could be they were just the first to note it.
“Plus the case identified in Belgium is a returning traveller from Egypt highlighting that it’s already more widespread… so really, this variant has been circulating somewhere for sometime, & most likely identified in SA due to good surveillance, not necessarily emerged there,” clinician-scientist Muge Cevik tweeted.
Users on Twitter were divided on the subject. Some questioned why the unvaccinated young woman was traveling to not one, but two countries, while others asked to let vaccination be their choice.
“They have the nerve to take their unvaccinated selves to not just one country but two,” @sharpetax tweeted. “At this point vaccine hesitant and antivaxxers are in the same WhatsApp group. You’ve had enough time,” @sboshmafu added.
“Enough time for what exactly? Why is it an issue for you if people don’t want to vaccinate. Those who have vaccinated should be safe right? If they are not inkinga yabo. Ningazenzi abefundisi,” @3rd_mzilikazi responded.
“So we should just be cool with other people dying because we who are vaxxed are safe? Selfishness will actually be the death of us all,” @totallytlholo chimed in.
“Ya’ll should just keep quiet since ya’ll already Vaxxed and let us worry about our health… Why push so much to test this vaccine on unwilling participants,” @BrokeGuy3417 wrote.