Fact Check-World Economic Forum did not report about Omicron variant in July

An update in an article by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to include information about SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529, recently designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as variant of concern, has triggered confusion online.

Hundreds of social media users are sharing the article entitled “Explainer: This is how scientists detect new variants of COVID-19” ( here ), to falsely claim the WEF reported about variant B.1.1.529 back in July 2021, when the piece was first published.

“They’re starting to make mistakes. 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. Oops,” reads a tweet that has garnered over 2,700 retweets ( here ).

“I’m not going all conspiracy here and I may be wrong, but why does this July 2021 WEF article mention B.1.1.529 ? I thought this was new? Might easily be explained, but I’d like it to be,” another user wrote here .

Other iterations are viewable on Facebook here and here .

However, it is not correct that the WEF report included information about the B.1.1.529 variant four months ago.

An archived version of the article from July 12 ( here ), shows the piece made no mention of the variant, which was originally detected on November 9, according to the WHO ( ). An archived version from September also corroborates this ( here ) .

Furthermore, the updated article on the WEF website links to a Reuters report about Omicron published on Nov. 25 ( here ) , which could not have appeared in text published in July.

A note to readers giving information about the date the WEF article was updated was added on Nov. 27 ( here ).

On Nov. 26, the WHO classified the B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa as a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," and designated it with the Greek letter “Omicron”. It stated, “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs” ( here ).

Variants are denominated of concern (VOC) when there is clear evidence of changes to transmissibility, severity, or immunity ( here ). Omicron is the fifth variant to carry such a designation ( here ).


False. The WEF did not publish a report referencing the Omicron coronavirus variant in July. The report was updated on Nov. 26 to include information about the variant.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here .