Original article daily mail
South African medics moved to calm a wave of panic over a new
ultra-infectious and vaccine resistant Covid strain today as its arrival in Europe sparked fears of a new Christmas shutdown.
Belgium revealed a case of the Botswana variant – named ‘Omicron’ by the World Health Organization tonight – prompting EU chiefs to call for an ’emergency brake’ on all travel from southern Africa after it was also found in Israel.
The Belgian health ministry said a case of the new B.1.1.529 strain was confirmed in an unvaccinated young woman who had returned from Egypt 11 days ago, suggesting it is already being seeded across the continent and is widespread in Africa.
In Britain, arrivals from six countries were added to the quarantine red list from noon – but fears were raised over a lack of checks on arrivals beforehand. Boris Johnson spoke to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa tonight to discuss the situation.
However, Angelique Coetzee, the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, said that it was too early to begin imposing travel restrictions.
‘It’s a hasty decision,’ she told the BBC. ‘I would understand if it was two weeks later and we knew much more about this viral infection that is going around, this mutation.
‘But for now, it is a storm in a tea cup, we have only become aware of this viral mutation … in the last week.
‘So far what we have seen are very mild cases, so I’m not sure why we are all up in arms.’
In other Covid news today:
- The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting to discuss the variant, which could be named ‘Nu’ within hours;
- The UK today added South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe to the red list;
- The European Commission recommended member states suspend all flights from southern African countries, with Germany and Italy already implementing the bans;
- The South African Medical Association said all cases of the Botswana variant had been in young people and were mild, describing the global response as a ‘storm in a teacup’;
- The UK’s Covid cases breached 50,000 for first time in a month, rising 13 per cent in a week and deaths creep up, but hospital admissions fall for 10th day in a row
- One in 65 people had Covid in England last week as cases, new infections up four per cent on the previous seven days, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics
Angelique Coetzee, the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, said that it was too early to begin imposing travel restrictions
A flight from South Africa to the Netherlands was barred entry into the country today. Passengers are pictured above waiting in their seats
Pictured above is the cockpit shown on screens on the flight (right), and seats on the plane. The Netherlands suspended entry to flights coming from South Africa at noon today
‘We must continue to act with caution, and do all we can to keep this virus at bay including, once you are eligible, getting your booster shot.
‘We’ve already given over 16 million booster shots.
‘The booster jab was already important before we knew about this variant – but now, it could not be more important.’
Earlier, Dr Susan Hopkins told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘The first look at it shows it has a variety of different mutations, it’s got 30 different mutations that seem relevant, that’s double what we had in Delta.
A baby cries as her mother receives her Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19, in Diepsloot Township near Johannesburg, South Africa
Chair of South African Medical Association says Omicron cases are mild so far, but it’s too soon to the determine risk of severe disease
- A new coronavirus variant called Omicron has put the world on high alert.
- “It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild,” the chair of the South African Medical Association told The Guardian.
- Scientists are still waiting on more data to determine if Omicron poses a greater public health threat than Delta.
Less than three weeks after it was spotted in South Africa, a new coronavirus variant called Omicron has put the world on high alert. News of the variant’s spread sent global markets into turmoil on Friday and prompted a spate of travel restrictions across Europe, Asia, and North America.
Scientists worry the variant may be driving a recent outbreak in South Africa, where average daily cases have risen 13-fold since the first Omicron case was reported on November 9. The variant has also been spotted in Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel, and Belgium.
Omicron carries a concerning number of mutations that could help it spread, render vaccines less effective, or potentially lead to more severe disease. Preliminary evidence suggests Omicron may increase the risk of reinfection relative to other concerning variants, the World Health Organization said Friday.
But scientists are still waiting on more data to determine if Omicron poses a greater public health threat than Delta, the dominant worldwide strain.
“It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild,” Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, told The Guardian on Friday. “Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing.”
Comment: In other words as all know,the virus mutates, and it symptoms become more mild and the risk is less. It becomes no more serious than a yearly flu, or the common cold.
Hong Kong reported its first Omicron case last week — a 36-year-old man who had recently visited South Africa. The man was asymptomatic and fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in June, according to Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection (CHP). He may have passed the virus to another fully vaccinated traveler — a 62-year-old male — who did show symptoms after testing positive, the CHP reported.
Botswana’s health ministry also confirmed four Omicron cases among fully vaccinated travelers in a statement on Friday. The ministry didn’t specify whether the infected people had developed any symptoms, but the positive cases were detected as part of Botswana’s routine screening of incoming travelers.
Comment: The question should be, why are we being vaccinated and expecting the population to be fully protected from 30 different mutations of Covid 19? Our consumer society has lost the plot.
‘We don’t know yet if this new variant is out-competing Delta’
The WHO labeled Omicron a “variant of concern” on Friday — a designation given to variants like Delta that require close scrutiny from public-health officials.
But scientists are still waiting on lab studies to determine how well coronavirus antibodies — either from natural infection or vaccines — hold up against Omicron. They’re also watching carefully to see how quickly the variant spreads across the globe, particularly in countries with higher vaccination rates. (South Africa has fully vaccinated just 24% of its population so far; compared to 59% in the US.)
“We don’t know yet if this new variant is out-competing Delta,” Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist at UTHealth School of Public Health, told Insider. “We also still don’t know if it will evade our vaccines yet, either.”
People who have been fully vaccinated and wear masks in public indoor settings shouldn’t feel compelled to change their behavior right now, she added.
“We really just need to hold tight to see how this plays out and what our next move is,” Jetelina said.About the Author
Omicron variant symptoms ‘unusual but mild’, says South African doctor
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The South African doctor who first sounded the alarm on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus said that its symptoms are “unusual but mild” in healthy patients — but she’s worried the strain could cause complications in the elderly and unvaccinated.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a practicing doctor for 30 years who chairs the South African Medical Association (SAMA), said she believed she had found a new strain of the virus after COVID-19 patients at her private practice in Pretoria exhibited strange symptoms.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Coetzee told The Telegraph.
She called South Africa’s vaccine advisory committee on Nov. 18 after a family of four all tested positive for the virus with symptoms that included extreme fatigue.
So far, she’s had two dozen patients who tested positive and showed symptoms of the new variant, mostly young men. About half of the patients were unvaccinated, she said. None of those infected lost their sense of smell or taste.
“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well,” Coetzee told the paper. “So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.”
She described one “very interesting case” involving a 6-year-old girl.
She had “a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better,” she said.
Coetzee emphasized that all of her patients had been healthy, and expressed worry that elderly or unvaccinated patients could be hit by the omicron much harder –especially those with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease.
“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.WHO designates new COVID strain Omicron as ‘variant of concern’
The World Health Organization officially named the virus on Friday, skipping two letters of the Greek alphabet and choosing “Omicron.”
There have been no confirmed cases of the new variant in the United States yet, but officials believe it may already be here. Two cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom, which joined the US and European Union in issuing travel restrictions.
On Friday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and put a temporary halt on all elective surgeries in anticipation of hospitalizations,