Doctor who discovered Omicron says Boris Johnson is ‘verging on hysteria’
Doctor Angelique Coetzee's advice is to 'stay calm'
The South African GP who raised the alarm about Omicron has used a very British term to try and persuade Boris Johnson's government from ramping up measures to slow the spread of the newest Covid variant.
Doctor Angelique Coetzee, who is head of the South African Medical Association, has urged the UK to "stay calm", saying Johnson's response to Omicron "verges on hysteria".
Dr Coetzee says that while Omicron is more transmissible, the symptoms are "very, very mild", making it "far less dangerous" than previous strains.
Despite her repeated assurances, Johnson on Sunday declared an Omicron "emergency" and warned a "tidal wave is coming".
On Wednesday, it was feared as many as one million Brits would be isolating at Christmas. The PM is due to hold yet another press conference at 5 pm as he races to get booster jabs in arms, and amid further speculation that more Covid measures may be introduced.
Dr Coetzee said it is "completely over the top to be talking about Plan Cs or lockdowns" and has argued that Omicron could actually be a "friend, not a foe" by helping people build natural immunity without making them too sick.
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Writing in the Daily Mail, the scientist said she knows more about Omicron than anyone else, as she was first to see cases of it in her patients.
"As a general practitioner for more than 33 years, I am one of the foot soldiers who sees patients first," she wrote.
"We clinicians deal day-to-day with real people, not statistical projections, and I can reassure you that the symptoms presenting in those with Omicron are very, very mild compared with those we see with the far more dangerous Delta variant."
Dr Coetzee said Omicron patients typically present with muscle pain, body aches, a headache, and some fatigue, and those symptoms "don't seem to get any worse". Five days later, she said, they clear up.
Critics have suggested that South Africa's relatively young population means Covid isn't hitting them as hard.
But Dr Coetzee said just 26 per cent of the country is double jabbed, and even unvaccinated people are not falling seriously ill with Omicron.
"While this is certainly not an argument against vaccination — I cannot stress the importance of that enough — it’s reassuring to know that even unprotected bodies fight off this variant much more easily than Delta. Current data indicates that the majority of cases admitted to ICUs are unvaccinated people," she wrote.
The GP said she had "no regrets" about raising the alarm over Omicron but said she was "astonished" by how the world reacted.
The UK is one of several countries that quickly imposed travel restrictions on the southern African region and re-introduced face masks and, later, Covid passports.
"Now I find myself even more astonished by the UK Government’s latest pronouncements, given what has become apparent about Omicron in the past four weeks," Dr Coetzee said.
"My first Omicron case, a young man who came into my surgery, initially thought he had been in the sun too long after working out.
"In the part of South Africa where I work, there haven’t been many patients admitted to hospital with Omicron, and most have been treated at home, using anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, and low doses of cortisone."
Read Doctor Angelique Coetzee's opinion piece in the Mail here.