Having set off the latest global COVID panic, this time focusing on the omicron strain, which was hastily labeled a variant of concern by the WHO over the long holiday weekend in the US, South Africa's top epidemiologists now find themselves in the awkward position of having to walk back all - or at least some - of the hysteria first unleashed by news of the omicron variant.
As US stocks bounce back from steep Friday losses at Monday's open, yet another SA official has chimed in, warning that the world still has much to learn about omicron, and that symptoms might be less severe than initially feared. Of course, this notion isn't exactly news, as plenty of experts inside South Africa and elsewhere have warned over the weekend that the new variant might be more mild, if also more transmissible, than previous variants.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, affirmed Monday that while the omicron variant appears to spread more quickly than earlier strains, its symptoms appear to be less severe, meaning the new strain - while more infectious - might also prove less deadly than the delta strain, which is the most dominant COVID strain on the planet right now.
Omicron patients’ symptoms were “so different and so mild from those I had treated before.”
Meanwhile, the G-7 - at the UK's urging - is exhorting its members to take bold action to make sure the variant doesn't become a threat.
Patients infected with the new strain appear to be suffering more from fatigue, head and body aches and occasional sore throats and coughs. They also don't exhibit symptoms like loss of taste and smell, like patients infected with delta and other variants have seen.
After the UK confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant and added a handful of southern African countries (including South Africa) to its travel "red list", in effect shutting down travel between the region and the UK, the G-7 has just decided to issue its own warning about the new "variant of concern".
In a joint statement issued with the G-7 health ministers about the "global threat" posed by the omicron variant, the G-7 unleashed a torrent of FUD, while also praising South Africa for its "exemplary" work, as the WHO complains that the West is mistaken for shutting down travel from the region.
Readers can find the brief joint statement below:
The global community is faced, at a first evaluation, with the threat of a new, highly transmissible variant of COVID-19, which requires urgent action. Therefore today G7 Health Ministers held an urgent meeting to discuss developments with regard to concerns related to the Omicron variant.
G7 Ministers reiterated the commitment to taking forward the pledges in the G7 Carbis Bay Leaders Communique and G7 Health Ministers declaration as well as the Global Health Summit and the G20 Rome Declarations.
Ministers praised the exemplary work of South Africa in both detecting the variant and alerting others to it. There was strong support to set up an international pathogen surveillance network within the framework of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ministers also recognised the strategic relevance of ensuring access to vaccines, including surge for vaccines absorption and country readiness for receiving and deploying COVID vaccines, providing operational assistance, taking forward our donation commitments, and tackling vaccine misinformation, as well as supporting research and development.
They indicated that in the coming weeks, ministers committed to continue to work closely together, with WHO and international partners to share information and monitor Omicron. Ministers committed to meeting again in December.
Above all, the G-7 says it recognizes the importance of global access to vaccines, which is why the US shouldn't moan when China decides to dole out another 1 billion of its jabs to people living in the developing world, particularly in Africa, in keeping with its earlier promise to shield the continent from the vicissitudes of COVID.
But the G-7 statement also underlines the growing disconnect between the diktats of globalist NGOs with skepticism expressed by local officials.
All the while, Dr. Anthony Fauci is seizing the opportunity to use the new strain as a boogeyman to push Americans to get their booster shots (warning Sunday that the new strain is already in the US), one of the SA doctors who helped discover the strain is now seeing her comments amplified as the WHO criticizes the travel bans imposed by western nations on south African countries impacted by the new variant, which was first identified in South Africa from cases discovered in Botswana.
According to Bloomberg, there is no indication yet of different symptoms, or that the variant causes more severe disease. Scientists are analyzing what proportion of hospital admissions are from omicron. Only after this has been determined will they know whether the variant brings more severe illness. So far, about 80% of those admitted to hospitals in South Africa haven't been vaccinated.
And as the fourth wave emerges across the developing (as well as the developed) world, many expect infection numbers may quadruple this week to around 10K new cases a day in South Africa. Right now, the country's fourth wave is centered around the Gauteng province, home to the country's economic hub, Johannesburg.
Coetzee first made her comments about the virus's efficacy over the weekend while pushing back against the travel bans that have disproportionately targeted South Africa (although some countries like Japan have chosen to close borders to the vast majority of travelers). In a series of interviews, she also claimed that the UK - which has already identified a handful of omicron cases - is panicking "unnecessarily.
Angelique Coetzee, The chairwoman of the South African Medical Association, on travel bans for #SouthAfrica.— STESS News USA (@stessewsen) November 27, 2021
She says "The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus results in mild disease, without prominent syndromes" . #STESSNews #breakingnews #COVID19 #Omicron #Africa pic.twitter.com/PBTxQECWqa
Her comments appeared to reflect a conclusion first put forth by billionaire Bill Ackman over the weekend. Still, she conceded that scientists are still analyzing whether what proportion of recent hospitalizations have been driven by omicron. So far, at least, symptoms appear to be mild, and while hospitalizations have begun to rise in South Africa (with about 80% of those hospitalized in recent weeks remaining unvaccinated), it's unclear whether the variant is driving this, or whether it's a result of a recent uptick in cases that's only partly driven by the variant.
A thought. While it is too early to have definitive data, early reported data suggest that the Omicron virus causes ‘mild to moderate’ symptoms (less severity) and is more transmissible. If this turns out to be true, this is bullish not bearish for markets.— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) November 29, 2021
I should have said: bullish for the equity market, bearish for the bond market https://t.co/Kvk0t4uViA— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) November 29, 2021
Omicron "presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well...as medical practitioners, we do not know why so much hype is being driven" by the variant.
Put another way...
Let us be clear: to this point, there is not one shred of evidence that Omicron is more deadly than delta or the original variant. Your public officials are panicking you on the basis of NO EVIDENCE.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) November 29, 2021