Inside SA leg of Omicron variant discovery: A single test result, a missing gene, and an email

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A general view of Lancet Laboratories in Century City. (Photo by Gallo Images/ Jacques Stander)
A general view of Lancet Laboratories in Century City. (Photo by Gallo Images/ Jacques Stander)

One afternoon in early November, junior scientist Alicia Vermeulen, who works at a Lancet Laboratories facility in Pretoria, glanced at data from a batch of coronavirus tests and noticed something strange.

She was not aware at the time that her observation would set in motion a chain of events that would eventually lead to the discovery that the Omicron coronavirus variant was present and circulating in South Africa, news of which has led to global fears and travel bans targeted at southern African countries.

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