Experts at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), part of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, said residues of the Omicron Covid-19 variant were detected in the canton’s wastewater as early as mid-November 2021.
The researchers made the announcement on January 5th, telling Swiss broadcaster SRF that signs of the variant were detected at the Werdhölzli water supply station in Zurich.
The variant, which was first detected in South Africa, was first identified in Switzerland in late November in the cantons of Geneva and Basel, but was not detected in Zurich until early November.
By December 28th, the variant was dominant in Switzerland. The variant is also dominant in the canton of Zurich, Switzerland’s largest, and has an approximate 60 percent share of new infections.
The variant is believed to be more infectious and spread much easier than known variants of the virus, although some early suggestions indicate it may lead to more mild courses of Covid disease.
Wastewater analysis has proven to be a useful tool to determine the prevalence of Covid-19 in particular regions, along with the spread of new variants of the virus.
READ MORE: Omicron officially dominant in Switzerland
Although the variant is now dominant in Switzerland, having replaced the Delta variant, Swiss authorities have previously come under criticism for failing to undertake sufficient sequencing to determine how widespread new Covid variants really are.
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As the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly through the country, it impacts not only the epidemiological situation, but also the economy.
Absenteeism in essential industries is particularly high and is placing Switzerland’s critical infrastructure at risk.
As at January 4th, 70,302 infected people are in isolation, and additional 31,281 are in quarantine after a close contact with a contaminated person, according to Federal Office of Public Health.
In total, over 101,500 individuals are currently confined and the number is expected to increase, health officials say.