Several social media users shared a link to a report by the World Economic Forum claiming the new variant of concern, Omicron, was not a ‘new’ variant as it has been mentioned in the WEF article dated July 2021.
Newschecker found WEF’s article titled, ‘Explainer: This is how scientists detect new variants of COVID-19,’ has been updated on November 26 to add information about the new variant, B.1.1.529, and the updated article is falsely shared as the original article.
Omicron or B.1.1.529 variant of Coronavirus, first detected in South Africa on November 9, was classified as a ‘variant of concern’ (VOC) by WHO on November 26 as the “variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.”
Twitter users, @PezntJournalist shared screenshots of the report highlighting the dateline, ‘12 July 2021’ and variant ‘B.1.1.529’ in WEF’s article asking for an explanation from the WHO adding, ‘Eyes are open and we don’t trust you.’
Newschecker found several similar Tweets asking, ‘How’s it a new emerging variant if the WEF has been talking about B.1.1.529 since July?’
To check if Omicron was mentioned in the July 2021 copy of the World Economic Forum’s report, Newschecker clicked on the link shared with the claim and found a disclaimer at the beginning of the report stating, ‘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.’
WEF’s article explains how new variants of COVID19 arise and how they are detected.
The report states, ‘Scientists in South Africa have discovered a small number of cases of a new COVID variant…They’re concerned that they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make the variant – named B.1.1.529 – more transmissible.’
Further Newschecker accessed an archived version of the article using Wayback Machine and found the article originally published on July 12 does not mention the Omicron variant (here). Another archived version of the article from September 22 also does not mention ‘Omicron’ in the report (here).
On accessing an archived version dated November 26, Newschecker found the article updated with information on B.1.1.529 variant (here), and the disclaimer was added on November 27 (here).
World Economic Forum confirmed to Newschecker, the article from July did not mention the new variant but it was added later. “Since people misinterpreted this article update, we have now issued a clarification at the top of the same article,” told WEF’s media content head in an email to Newschecker.
An updated article carrying information on the Omicron variant was falsely shared as the original article dated July 12, 2021.
Archived version of the article
World Economic Forum’s updated article