How severe is Omicron? South African doctor, who first raised alarm, tells all about new Covid variant

Image Source : ANI

We know that as viruses evolve they tend to become less severe, says South African Dr Angelique Coetzee, who first raised alarm over the Omicron variant.


  • Omicron has over 30 mutations, very different from Delta-Beta, says South African Dr. Coetzee
  • South Africa cases didn’t start to rise immediately but this week they started to rise, says doctor
  • Around Nov 18, I saw more patients with more or less the same symptoms, she added.

South African Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who was the first to alert government scientists about the possible new Covid variant Omicron, speaks about the new Covid variant which the world is concerned about as cases, especially in European countries are witnessing a surge while nation after nation is changing existing protocols to fight the contagious disease.

Speaking to ANI, Coetzee said, “at first we thought that maybe it can be a viral infection but when we tested, people were found Covid positive. Specifically, around November 18, I saw more patients with more or less the same symptoms. I alerted the advisory committee. Our labs & RTPCR tests found a strange thing going on.”

“I was shocked…I was thinking what are we going to do as we hadn’t seen, for quite a few weeks, COVID patients anymore,” she said.

“Infectivity rate in South Africa was less than 1%. We did expect cases but more towards December end-January beginning in the festive season. So, this was premature for us. I started to test patients coming in with symptoms not typical of a normal viral infection,” Angelique Coetzee said.

“Last week it was confirmed that South Africa saw a new variant. I think this variant has been around for some time. May be not in South Africa but in other countries because other countries are seeing quite a high rise in their numbers of infections,” Coetzee mentioned.

“It has over 30 mutations, very different from Delta-Beta. When scientists announced the new variant, they stated they don’t understand everything yet,” Angelique Coetzee said.

Further speaking on the new variant, Coetzee said, “they are just sequencing it. What we do know at this time is that RT-PCR tests will be able to pick it up, Rapid Tests will be able to confirm that you’ve COVID and if you look at clinical symptoms, that symptom isn’t the same as Delta, you can safely assume it’s Omicron.”

“If you look at the clinical picture again, we know that as viruses evolve they tend to become less severe. However, we were not sure because of the 30 plus mutations. So, for now, if we look at the clinical picture, at primary healthcare level it’s mostly mild cases,” Angelique Coetzee informed.

Angelique Coetzee further added, “not disputing the fact that there would be patients who have severe infections but that would be very very few at this level that we are operating on.”

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“Since 18th November, in South Africa cases didn’t start to rise immediately but this week they started to rise and increase has been quite significant. So we know it’s a fast-spreading virus,” Angelique Coetzee alerted.

“For now, we do know that the vaccines will protect you against the disease at this stage because irrespective of age group & co-morbidities, people who have been vaccinated, have had mild disease,” Angelique Coetzee added.

“So, this is what we say. It’s milder than the Delta variant at the primary healthcare level. At the hospital level, that picture might change but these are very early days, not a lot of admissions yet at the hospitals,” Angelique Coetzee said.

“Symptoms would mostly be fatigue. It would be body aches & pains. Some of them got quite a severe headache & tiredness. But nobody mentioned loss of smell/taste, severely blocked nose or severe temperature,” the doctor mentioned.

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