The media hype about the Omicron coronavirus variant contradicts the science, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain among patients, says.
Exaggerated media hype is being used to villainize South Africa and justify unwarranted travel bans, the National Chair of the South African Medical Association and Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines member said Sunday in an interview with Reuters:
“The hype that’s been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture.
“And it doesn’t warrant to just cut us off from any traveling, and ban South Africa as if we are the villains in the whole process — should not be like that.”
Symptoms of the Omicron variant are presently so mild and that the virus can be treated at home, Dr. Coetzee noted. In fact, one of her country’s largest hospitals has had only one potential Omicron patient – and even that case isn’t confirmed, she said:
“Looking at the mildness of the symptoms we are seeing, currently there’s no reason for panicking as we don’t see severely ill patients.
"I also checked with the hospitals, some of the hospitals in my area, and one of the biggest hospitals they only have one patient currently that's COVID-positive on a ventilator - and they don't even know whether it's COVID, you know it's Delta – or whether it is Omicron-related."
Dr. Coetzee did acknowledge that her assessment of Omicron could change in the future if new results show the virus to be more of a threat.
But, right now there’s no need to panic, she said.