South Africa has been cast aside as international media continues to refer to the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, as a ‘South African variant.’
Once the news spread, SA and other African countries faced a number of travel bans due to the misinformation about the variant.
During the national address held on November 28, President Ramaphosa stated that the travel bans have been unfairly placed on South Africa, calling them unjustified and discriminatory and not backed by science.
Omicron is not a ‘South African variant’, it’s a variant that was spotted & reported by brilliant South African scientists so fast the world has a chance to get on top of it. Could have originated anywhere.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) November 27, 2021
South African doctor, Dr. Angelique Coetzee who discovered the variant, says that symptoms found in her patients at her private practice in Pretoria are “unusual but mild” in healthy patients, reports the New York Post.
However, Dr. Coetzee worries that the strain could cause complications in elderly and unvaccinated individuals.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” Coetzee told The Telegraph. “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.”
Here’s what we know so far about the Omicron variant:
- The variant was discovered by South African scientists, it is not a South African variant.
- B.1.1.529 variant or Omicron was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24, reports IOL.
- An increased risk of reinfection: there is an increased risk that people will be reinfected with this new variant.
- It is not clear whether or not the variant symptoms differ or can be detected earlier.
- WHO warned against countries who are hastily imposing travel restrictions.
- The existing tools to fight the COVID-19 should remain in place to fight the spread of Omicron, such as wearing masks in public, sanitising etc.
- Omicron is a mutation from previous variants, including the Beta and Delta variants, but it is not clear if these genetic changes makes it more transmissable or dangerous.
- There is no indication that the variant could cause a more severe disease.
- The earliest known case of the Omicron variant was on November 9. The mutation was first detected on November 24 in South Africa.
Global COVID-19 statistics shared by BBC News have since gone viral in South Africa, with social media users adamant to defend the country and make a point of the premature decision made by the UK.
COVID-19 cases across the globe:
– France: 33 464
– UK: 46 654
– Germany: 76 414
– South Africa: 2 828
Meanwhile, allegations have been made that flights between SA and the UK will resume from Tuesday.
According to Spokesperson Clayson Monyela, the UK High Commission has confirmed that British Airways will resume direct flights to South Africa from Tuesday, with the first flight to London on Wednesday. Virgin Airlines will also continue flying three times a week into South Africa.