A South African doctor who was one of the first to discover the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has said that she was told not to describe the Coronavirus strain as “mild” – even thought that was her opinion of the variant.
Dr Angelique Coetzee told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper this week that European governments asked her to portray the new strain as being just as serious as previous variants, including Delta.
“I was told not to publicly state that it was a mild illness,” she said. “I have been asked to refrain from making such statements and to say that it is a serious illness. I declined.”
Omicron has, in fact, been shown to be a milder but more infectious variant of Covid-19,
Dr Coetzee said “based on the clinical picture there are no indications that we are dealing with a very serious disease” – but said she was asked not to make public statements on that opinion.
“The course is mostly mild,” she told Die Welt.
“I’m not saying you won’t get sick if you’re mild. The definition of mild Covid-19 disease is clear, and it is a WHO definition – patients can be treated at home and oxygen or hospitalisation is not required. A serious illness is one in which we see acute pulmonary respiratory infections – people need oxygen, maybe even artificial respiration. We saw that with Delta, but not with Omicron. So I said to people, ‘I can’t say it like that because it’s not what we’re seeing.'”
But she said “they tried” to prevent her from sharing that opinion but “they will not silence me”.
The WHO has urged governments not to describe Omicron as mild, but case fatality ratios are now very low even as rates of Omicron rise, Most countries are abandoning many of the Covid-19 restrictions since Omicron has been shown not to lead to spikes in death or ICU occupancy.
Dr Coetzee, who is chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, said she came under pressure from scientists in the UK and the Netherlands who said, “How can you explain that it’s a mild disease? It’s a serious illness. Look at the mutations.”
And she told Die Welt, “What I said at one point – because I was just tired of it – was, ‘In South Africa this is a mild illness, but in Europe it is a very serious one’. That’s what your politicians wanted to hear.”
She added, “My reports have thrown them off track. In a pandemic, you also have to look at what is happening at the grassroots level. The general practitioners who treat the sick every day must be asked what they experience, how the clinical picture presents itself.”
She also told the Australian Daily Telegraph: “Because of all of Covid’s mutations, all of these scientists and politicians who aren’t from South Africa were contacting me telling me I was wrong when I spoke out, that it was a serious disease. They were telling me I had no idea what I was talking about, they kept attacking me.”
“They are accusing me of lying, of downplaying Omicron because of how it has been in Europe. In their minds, it is impossible for a disease with more than 38 mutations to be mild. But I have stated many times before it can be a serious illness if you are unvaccinated and have comorbidities but for the majority of people it is a mild illness. I am the one who has seen the patients first-hand but the politicians won’t listen.”
Dr Coetzee told an LBC interview in December that “There’s no reason why you can’t trust us when we say to you [Omicron is] a mild disease.”
Dr Angelique Coetzee of the South African Medical Association says TODAY
— Adam Brooks 🗽 (@EssexPR) December 12, 2021
“It’s a mild disease. Speak with our specialists in our hospitals, private sector and public sector, you will hear the same story,” she said.
She stated that Omicron is a relatively “mild” variant of Coronavirus which sees greater transmission yet lower rates of hospitalisation than the Delta variant.
“Yes, you can have a million cases, you can have even more than that, but the severity of the disease is mild.”
WATCH: Dr Angelique Coetzee speaks to Die Welt