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South Africans with Omicron not seriously ill, says doctor

The people in South Africa who have caught the Omicron strain of Covid-19 have not become seriously ill, according to the country’s medical association (SAMA).

So far, the cases detected in South Africa are not serious, Angelique Coetzee, who chairs the South African Medical Association, told the BBC.

However, research into the variant is still at a very early stage, she said, adding that only 24 per cent of people are fully vaccinated in the country.

“The patients are mostly complaining about a sore body and tiredness, extreme tiredness and we see it in the younger generation, it’s not the older people,” she said.

These were not patients who were admitted directly to the hospital, Coetzee said.

In comments to other media, Coetzee expressed concerns that the variant might have on older people with underlying conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.

The symptoms of the new variant are unusual but mild, she said, adding that she was first alerted to the possibility of a new variant when patients with unusual symptoms for Covid-19 came to her practice in Pretoria in early November complaining of severe fatigue.

Coetzee was reportedly the first South African doctor to alert authorities to patients with a new variant on November 18.

Omicron has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The European Centre for Disease Control has expressed serious concerns that the new strain could significantly reduce the effectiveness of the available vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.

In response to the news, many governments around the world have suspended passenger flights from some southern African countries, including Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Swaziland.

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