Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who first identified the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, urged calm over the weekend, saying that patients diagnosed with the variant have been experiencing “extremely mild symptoms.” She said more time is needed to better understand the new strain, but did express concern for those who are more at risk.
Chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, Coetzee told The Telegraph that the symptoms of the new variant are unusual but not serious.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” the doctor said, adding “currently there’s no reason for panicking as we don’t see severely ill patients.”
“The most predominant clinical complaint is severe fatigue for one or two days, with then the headache and the body aches and pain. Some of them will have what they call a scratchy throat and some will have a cough — a dry cough, but it’s not a constant cough, it comes and goes. And that’s more or less the big symptoms that we have seen,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee said about two dozen of her patients have tested positive for Covid-19 with symptoms of the new variant, explaining that they were mostly healthy men who turned up “feeling so tired.” About half of the patients were reportedly unvaccinated. In briefing other African medical associations on Saturday, Coetzee noted that her patients were healthy but added that she was worried the new variant could hit older people – with co-morbidities such as diabetes or heart disease – much harder, the British newspaper reported.
“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” she said.
The B.1.1.529 variant — Omicron — is the most mutated form of Covid-19 discovered thus far, with 32 mutations to the spike protein, The Telegraph reported. It was first identified in Botswana on Nov. 11, and has now been detected in the UK, South Africa, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Belgium.
South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla condemned the “knee-jerk and draconian” travel restrictions imposed by countries in a heated press conference Friday, insisting that his country acted transparently by alerting the world to the B.1.1.529 variant, according to The Guardian.
President Joe Biden announced travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday, in response to reports on the Omicron variant — the other countries included in the restrictions are Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
(The liberal media attacked former President Donald Trump as a racist for similar measures, but Biden has been given a full pass.)
The United Kingdom announced on Thursday that it was temporarily suspending flights from six countries, including South Africa.
Coatzee urged calm for the moment, insisting that, for now, there is no reason to be “seriously worried.”
“It’s all speculation at this stage. It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild,” she said. “Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No. We’re concerned and we watch what’s happening. But for now we’re saying, ‘OK, there’s a whole hype out there. [We’re] not sure why.’”
With booster shots now being heavily pushed in the U.S. as the staying power of COVID-19 vaccines wanes, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a vaccine for the new ‘Omicron’ strain can be ready in 100 days adding yet another jab to the menu for Americans.
On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, the outgoing head of the National Institutes of Health, were on all the talk shows warning about Omicron, stoking additional fears over the effects of the virus that has thus far resulted in heavy-handed government responses in many areas that have trampled on civil liberties.
“We do know that this is a variant that has a lot of mutations, like fifty of them and more than thirty of those in the spike protein which is the part of the virus that attaches to your human cells if you get infected,” Collins said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“That is a new record in terms of the number of mutations it does make you worry therefore that its a sufficiently different virus, that it might not respond as well to protections from the vaccines, but we don’t know that,” Collins added.
“We can certainly see that in South Africa and a few neighboring countries in the south part of Africa that this does seem to be spreading quite rapidly,” he said, “so the inference would be there that it’s particularly contagious, we don’t know about its severity.”
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