CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The omicron variant of COVID-19 may have been in Europe days before it appeared in South Africa. The omicron variant was found in the Netherlands from samples taken between November 19 and 23, this information just released by Dutch authorities Tuesday morning. South Africa first reported cases to the World Health Organization on November 24th, meaning the variant was likely in Europe before it was in Africa.

The variant has spread, being found in Canada on Sunday. 13 players on a Portugal soccer team tested positive over the weekend, one player recently took a trip to South Africa and it spread to other players from there.

Then cases began popping up in the U.K., Australia and China. As it spread, at least 69 countries including the U.S., Japan, and Canada banned travel from multiple African countries beginning over the weekend and continuing into Monday. Then Tuesday morning, Germany, Japan and France announced their first cases prompting more African travel bans, something the WHO has criticized.

So far, people in at least 19 countries have tested positive for omicron. As of November 30, no cases have been found here in the U.S. so far. Health officials say the best protection against the omicron variant is getting vaccinated and boosted.