At Lancet Laboratories in South Africa, scientists and pathologists first noticed an anomaly in positive PCR tests in early November, and it cropped up over and over again.
“It was a bit disturbing, because it made us worry that we were dealing with something new,” Allison Glass, a pathologist at Lancet Labs, told CNN’s David McKenzie.
They urgently notified South Africa’s genomics team. Within days, details about the new Omicron coronavirus variant became known worldwide.
“What’s important is we know that a new variant is likely to have an increase in cases, whether they be more severe or not,” Glass said.
Scientists inside the Wits VIDA Research Unit in South Africa are trying to determine whether the variant is more transmissible or causes more severe disease.
Samples are being put in freezers in the hallways at the lab, and it is set to operate 24 hours a day, McKenzie reported.
Jeanine du Plessis, a medical scientist at the lab, said they are seeing a lot more positive cases in the past few weeks.
Since there is still so much unknown about the variant at the moment, she said “everyone feels a little bit of hopelessness.”