In clear contradiction to the conspiracy theories and the vilification of the African continent in the light of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, Dutch health authorities announced on Tuesday that they found the new Omicron variant dating back as long as 11 days, indicating that it was already spreading in western Europe before the first cases were identified in southern Africa.
According to cbsnews, the RIVM health institute said it found Omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23.
Those findings predated the positive cases found among passengers who came from South Africa last Friday and were tested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
“It is not yet clear whether the people concerned [in the earlier cases] have also been to southern Africa,” the RIVM said, adding that the individuals had been informed of their Omicron infections and that local health services had started contact tracing.
The World Health Organisation had last Friday declared the new COVID-19 strain first discovered in South Africa to be a variant of concern and renamed it Omicron.
The classification puts Omicron into the most-troubling category of COVID-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta, plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said, pointing to worrying characteristics.
Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in a person coming from Malawi; Botswana; Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Hong Kong, Nigeria, amongst others.
The US, UK, EU, and some countries in Asia have since imposed flight ban on Southern African countries including Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, Nigeria even as the South African government said it is being “punished” and unfairly treated for sounding the alarm after its scientists detected the lethal variant.
Kicking against the travel ban and the treatment of Africa amidst the new COVID-19 variant, the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said matter-of-fact that Africa was not the source of COVID-19 which was first discovered in Wuhan, China, some two years ago.
The 61-year-old campaigner for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally also said that Africa should not be punished for the Omicron COVID-19 variant and other mutations that occur randomly anywhere in the world.
Adesina stated this in a three-part tweet on Sunday, following the travel ban imposed on Southern African countries by the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and some Asian countries as part of an emergency response to the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa.
The former Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development wrote, “Africa should not be labelled and penalized for COVID-19 variants and mutations that occur randomly elsewhere in the world. Africa is not the source of COVID-19.
“There must be global justice, equity & fairness in access to vaccines. Global vaccine supply system has underserved Africa. Protecting one’s home alone in the midst of a forest fire does not work. Put out the forest fire.
“Africa must accelerate the manufacturing of its own vaccines & set up its own ‘healthcare security defence system’. Africa must no longer outsource health security of its 1.8 billion people to the benevolence of others.”
Also, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned against the blanket travel restrictions, saying it was understandable for countries to seek to protect their citizens “against a variant we don’t yet fully understand”.
But he called for the global response to be “calm, coordinated and coherent”, urging nations to “take rational, proportional risk-reduction measures”.