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WATCH: Leading South African doctor says Omicron is “mild disease” 

Omicron is a mild disease, according to Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African doctor who reportedly first sounded the alarm on the Omicorn variant of Covid-19.

Dr Coetzee, Chair of the South African Medical Association, made the comments in an LBC interview on Sunday, 12th December. Dr Coetzee told viewers that: “There’s no reason why you can’t trust us when we say to you [Omicron is] a mild disease.”

As reported by Gript, Dr Coetzee, a practising doctor of 30 years, has insisted that the symptoms of Omicron are “unusual but mild” in healthy patients, with symptoms of the illness including extreme fatigue.

The doctor said she was first alerted to the possibility of a new variant when patients in her busy private practice in South Africa capital Pretoria last month began presenting with symptoms that did not immediately make sense to her. Unusual symptoms included young people of varying backgrounds and ethnicities with intense fatigue and a six-year-old child with a very high pulse rate. Unlike in the case of other strains of Covid-19, none had experienced a loss of taste or smell.

Speaking of the patients she had treated with the omicron variant; she recently told The Telegraph: “Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before.”

When, on November 18, four members of the same family all tested positive for Covid-19 with total exhaustion, she reported it to the country’s vaccine advisory committee.

It comes as claims about the variant have been described as “alarmist” – but some commentators have also disputed claims that cases in South Africa have so far only been “mild.”

Two weeks prior to Sunday’s interview, Dr Coetzee spoke to LBC in an initial interview during which she said that the West was overreacting to Omicron. She reiterated those claims yesterday as the UK and Ireland reintroduced lockdown measures in a scramble to deal with the emergence of Omicron. 

Dr Coetzee said that while she understands the precautions the UK is taking, which includes the reintroduction of masks in public places and work-from-home guidance, she argued that “there’s really no need” to enter into another lockdown over the variant.

In the interview, she was asked about the restrictions in place to deal with the new strain in South Africa. Dr Coetzee said that her country had implemented curfew measures and limits on large events, and added that after just one month the number of cases in the country is already on the decline.

“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.”

Dr Coetzee has said that Omicron may prove dangerous for older people, and also questioned the push for booster jabs for younger people in response to the discovery of the latest variant. 

Speaking to The New Indian Express, she also said there can be no room for complacency on the part of those who have been fully vaccinated. This is because the variant is able to escape vaccine immunity within four months of completion of vaccine dosage according to the data she collected on patients who tested positive for the new variant.

“We have two major vaccines here (in South Africa): Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. In both cases, the data I have collected has shown that people who were vaccinated in July with both doses have been reinfected or even had a breakthrough infection with Omicron. This means that one can’t be complacent and stay away from getting tested if symptoms show after three months of vaccination,” she told the outlet. 

She described how Omicron patients presented “very different” symptoms to those infected by the Delta variant. 

“I have seen nearly 600 patients with the Delta variant, and the symptoms mainly were fever, sore throat, cough, loss of smell and taste, and low saturation. But in Omicron, none of these exist. It is mainly body ache, severe headache, myalgia and fatigue. A test after 24-48 hours of these symptoms is important. If you test early there are chances of testing false negatives,” she said.

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