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Omicron has been around for some time, says SA doctor who raised alarm

By Shalini Bhardwaj
December 03, 2021 12:04 IST
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The South African doctor who first raised an alarm over new Covid variant, Omicron, states that the new coronavirus strain has significantly more mutations, as compared to the Delta or Beta variants of COVID-19 which can be easily missed if one is not clinically aware of its symptoms.

IMAGE: Social volunteers of the Vandemataram group hold placards to spread awareness about COVID-19 and AIDS in Bhubaneswar. Photograph: Sarangadhara Bishnoi/ANI Photo

In an interview with ANI, Dr Angelique Coetzee said: "I think that this variant has been around for some time. Maybe not in South Africa but in other countries because other countries were showing a high rise in their number of infections."

"If you are not clinically aware of the symptoms then you will easily miss the symptoms. That would go on and spread the virus to the rest of the community," said the doctor who chairs the South African Medical Association.

Dr Coetzee pointed out that Omicron has more than 30 mutations.


"It's very different from Delta or Beta variant in mutations. When our scientists announced this variant, they made it clear that they don't know everything about it yet. They are just sequencing it," she said.

"What we do know at this time is that RT-PCR tests will be able to pick it up, Rapid Tests will be able to confirm that you've COVID and if you look at clinical symptoms and that symptom isn't the same as Delta, you can safely assume it's Omicron," she added.

On being asked about her first reaction on discovering the new variant, the South African doctor said she was shocked when she found about the variant.

"I didn't expect it. We didn't have many cases in quite a few weeks. Our covid infection in South Africa was less than one per cent," the expert said.

"We did expect a fourth wave but the end of December and the beginning of January. So this was premature to ask. So I just decided to test a patient coming in with symptoms that were not typical of a normal viral infection," said Coetzee.

"I thought it may be a viral infection. was COVID positive. Specifically, on the 18th (November) I saw more cases with the same symptoms. Then I alerted the advisory committee. And last week then it was confirmed that South Africa saw a new variant, she said.

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Shalini Bhardwaj
Source: ANI
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