World Economic Forum did not report Omicron variant in July 2021, original article was updated

Posts shared on social media in the United States and South Africa claim that the World Economic Forum (WEF) made reference to the newly discovered Omicron variant in a report dated July 2021 – months before the latest mutation of the Covid-19 virus was announced. But this is false: the original WEF article cited on social media made no mention of Omicron, and it was only updated in November 2021 with details about the latest variant.

The post was published on Twitter on November 27, 2021, and has since been retweeted more than 4,000 times.

Screenshot of the false tweet, taken on December 8, 2021

“WHO just said that ‘Omicron’ was first reported by South Africa on 11/24/21. However, WEF reported this EXACT same ‘variant’—B.1.1.529, out of South Africa—way back in July (sic),” reads part of the tweet.

A screenshot of the tweet was also posted here on Facebook on November 28, 2021.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on December 8, 2021

WHO refers to the World Health Organization.

The Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant, also known as B.1.1.529, was reported to the WHO on November 24, 2021. Its discovery was first announced by researchers in South Africa after the country’s Network for Genomics Surveillance detected the variant two days earlier. There are currently five Covid-19 variants, namely: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and, now, Omicron.

But when the WEF report on Covid-19 variants was first published in July 2021, it did not contain information about the Omicron.

WEF article updated

AFP Fact Check found that information about the Omicron variant was added to the WEF’s existing article, which was updated in late November 2021.

A disclaimer included at the top of the article following the update, reads: “This article was originally published on 12 July 2021. It was updated on 26 November to include information about the new strain, B.1.1.529.”

Screenshot showing the disclaimer, taken December 8, 2021

AFP Fact Check reviewed archived versions of the article online and found no references to the new Omicron variant prior to the November 26, 2021, update.

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