While the coronavirus pandemic has been undeniably confusing at times, one would think that the amount of time and energy that the global community has spent on the issue would bring us at least some modicum of understanding. Or, at the very least, that the lines of communication regarding the virus and its variants would be clear and concise.
This does not appear to be the case with the latest omicron variant that first appeared in South Africa, and that the World Health Organization has warned is a very risky development.
The World Health Organization is warning countries that the omicron coronavirus variant poses “very high” global risk — and is likely to spread internationally.Advertisement - story continues below
“The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said Sunday in a preliminary technical brief. It recommended that governments worldwide enhance their ability to sequence coronavirus variants, report any local cases of omicron to the global health body and speed up their vaccination drives.
The newly identified omicron variant has 26 to 32 spike mutations, the WHO brief states, “some of which are concerning” in that they could make it more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune defenses.Trending:
“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the report says. “The overall global risk related to [omicron] is assessed as very high.” It added that “evidence for this assessment contains considerable uncertainty” and is subject to change.
But, on the ground in South Africa, the news is very different.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that on Nov. 18 she noticed seven patients at her clinic who had symptoms different from the dominant Delta variant, albeit “very mild”.
Now designated Omicron by the World Health Organization, the variant was detected and announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Nov. 25 from samples taken from a laboratory from Nov. 14 to Nov. 16.
Coetzee said a patient on Nov. 18 reported at her clinic being “extremely fatigued” for two days with body aches and headache.
“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,” she said, adding that the patient and his family turned out to be positive.
While it is universally understood that we should be “following the science” in these cases, one has to wonder whose science we are meant to be considering.