The doctor who first came across the omicron variant has said that Britain is “panicking unnecessarily”, saying that the cases she has encountered in South Africa are “extremely mild”.
On Sunday, Dr Angelique Coetzee told BBC‘s Andrew Marr that the cases she had encountereed in South Africa were “extremely mild”.
She said she noticed seven patients at her clinic who had symptoms different from the Delta variant adding that “Symptoms at that stage was very much related to normal viral infection. And because we haven’t seen covid-19 for the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test”
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The Indepdendent reports: Asked if the UK was “panicking unnecessarily”, she said: “I think you already have it there in your country and you’re not knowing it, and I would say, yes, at this stage I would say definitely.
“Two weeks from now maybe we will say something different.”
Dr Coetzee’s comments came after it was announced that two cases of the omicron variant had been confirmed in England.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s health minister, Joe Phaahla, said on Sunday that the travel restrictions placed on his country were “uncalled for”.
He claimed they would not prevent the spread of the virus and instead suggested regular testing and mask-wearing as a means of preventing a surge of infections.
Speaking on LBC radio, Dr Phaahla said wealthier countries like the UK “definitely” needed to provide more vaccine doses to countries in Africa.
He told the radio station that he had heard from medical professionals in his country that young, unvaccinated people had been admitted to hospital with the variant form of Covid-19.
Dr Phaahla also said that, anecdotally, cases of the new variant had been “mild” and mostly in the young, for whom vaccination rates are relatively low in South Africa.
Asked about the UK’s decision to add South Africa and some other African nations to the red list for international travel, he said the travel restrictions were “very unfortunate and uncalled for”.
“We’ve been here before,” he said, adding: “We’ve seen in practice that it doesn’t work.
“The US did that in the beginning of Covid-19 … and many other countries followed … but in the end, throughout the various waves of Covid-19, we’ve come to terms with the fact that even by the time we were informed by the scientists of this variant, it was gone, it was already everywhere.”
His comments follow a call held by Boris Johnson with South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Friday.
Dr Phaahla said: “When he [President Ramaphosa] reported to us about that discussion, he did indicate that he expressed our view that we believe this is uncalled for … it’s a futile exercise in a way. Very much a false sense of security, which is not going to help.”
Asked if young unvaccinated people were ending up in hospital with the new variant in South Africa, Dr Phaahla said: “Yes. Younger, unvaccinated people … 65 per cent of those they’ve admitted, who are mainly younger people, are actually those who are unvaccinated.”
He said he had heard from GPs that the “majority of the people they’ve been seeing are mild”, but stressed this was “not proper research”.