Politics

Omicron variant’s symptoms are mild so far, leading experts say

The large number of mutations found in the Omicron variant appears to destabilize the virus, which might make it less ‘fit’ than the dominant delta strain, says adviser to South Africa government

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Symptoms linked to the omicron coronavirus variant have been “pretty mild” so far, according to a COVID-19 adviser to the South Africa government.

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While South Africa, which first identified the new variant, currently has 3,220 people with the coronavirus infection overall, there’s been no real uptick in hospitalizations, Barry Schoub, chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines in South Africa, told Sky News on Sunday.

“The cases that have occurred so far have all been mild cases, mild-to-moderate cases and that’s a good sign,” said Schoub, adding that it was still early days and nothing was certain yet.

There’s no reason to panic because of the Omicron variant yet, but its spread reinforces the importance of getting a booster shot, Francis Collins, director of the U.K.’s National Institute of Health, said Sunday.

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Despite the rapid emergence of the Omicron strain, first reported in South Africa last week, Collins said vaccines have worked against mutations before, and might do so again this time, he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Given that history, we expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection, and especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection,” he added.

South Africa has been hit with a number of travel bans from the U.K. and other nations, after its scientists found the mutated variant last week. Since then, a growing number of European countries, along with Australia, have also identified people infected with the variant.

South African Airways listed on a sign at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Nov. 28, 2021 in London, England.
South African Airways listed on a sign at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Nov. 28, 2021 in London, England. Photo by Hollie Adams /Getty Images

The variant appears to be highly contagious, but it’s unknown how the symptoms compare with other strains of the virus, or whether current vaccines are less effective.

The large number of mutations found in the Omicron variant appears to destabilize the virus, which might make it less “fit” than the dominant delta strain, said Schoub.

“In a way, hopefully it won’t displace delta because delta we know responds very well to the vaccine,” he said.

Only about a third of South Africans are vaccinated.



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