South African Medical Association Chair: Omicron Cases ‘Extremely Mild’ So Far

By Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
December 2, 2021 Updated: December 2, 2021

The chair of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, said that symptoms of Omicron have been mild so far and can be treated at home.

“The majority of what we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are extremely mild cases, so mild to moderate. And so, these patients, it means they don’t need to be hospitalized for now,” Coetzee, who is also a private practitioner, told CNN on Nov. 30.

“We try to get the message out there to the world to say listen, we’re not saying this is not going to be a disease going forward that’s going to cause severe disease; it will cause severe disease, but if this disease can cause to more than the majority of people mild symptoms, easily treatable at home, no need for admission, that’s a first prize.”

Coetzee was among one of the first doctors to suspect a new strain of COVID-19 after seeing seven patients with “very mild” symptoms which differed from those of the dominant Delta variant, according to Reuters.

During the interview with CNN, Coetzee also encouraged doctors to test patients with signs of “malaise” which includes fatigue for a duration of one or two days; scratchy throat; body aches and pain.

“If we can get that message out to the world, it means that we would most probably going forward have less severe cases, less people going too late to the doctors,” she said. “No system can afford that, not South Africa, not the United States. No one can afford that.”

While Coetzee has had vaccinated patients contract the Omicron variant, she acknowledged that the patients were not “very sick.” However, doctors are still in the “early days” of understanding the new strain.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 was detected and announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Nov. 25.

As of Tuesday, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea have reported their first cases of the Omicron variant. As of Dec. 1, Omicron has been reported in 22 countries.

In response to concerns of vaccine breakthrough, BioNTech Founder Ugur Sahin told the Wall Street Journal that the Omicron variant is unlikely to cause severe illness among the vaccinated.

He also urged individuals to “speed up the administration of a third booster shot” in the interview.

Moderna’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel, on the other hand, told the Financial Times that it would take two weeks to collect data about how current vaccines performed against the new variant, and that it would take several months to re-develop vaccines to combat the new strain.

“There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is at the same level … we had with Delta,” Bancel stated.

Tammy Hung