Johannesburg: South Africa’s top health federation on Sunday slammed the 18 nations which have imposed travel bans on the country on fears of the new potentially highly-transmissible variant of Covid-19, Omicron, saying the world must avoid such “knee-jerk reaction” if it wants “transparency” in the sharing of critical medical data.
The new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa, was on Friday designated as a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), which named it “Omicron”.
The decision by 18 countries to ban flights to and from South Africa was premature, as there is still not enough information on how dangerous the variant might be, Angelique Coetzee, Chairman of South African Medical Association (SAMA) said.Coetzee also defended the decision to announce the findings, pointing out that South Africa should be lauded and not vilified for this. . Coetzee said, “The symptoms are not the same as the Delta (variant).
It is very similar to the Beta (variant) and you can easily miss the symptoms. I think what happened with us in South Africa as clinicians is the fact that we have merely seen virtually maybe one or two patients per week in the past eight to ten weeks on Covid-related symptoms.
Coetzee said they decided to alert the Advisory Council on Covid-19 that there were new symptoms that were not matching with the signs of the Delta variant.“We were lucky that we had a break in between and saw the new symptoms. But now we are being (seen as) the villains. It’s not right. It should never happen like this. If the world wants transparency, they would need to deal much better with this type of data that has been made available,” Coetzee said.
The Omicron variant has also been detected in Israel, Hong Kong, Belgium Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Australia.Coetzee said, “Everybody is going on about the science behind the variants, but very little is ever communicated around the symptoms. So, if you as a country want to protect your own people, look at what is happening.
“Alert your people. Say that there might be possibility of this going forward. But there’s no know way you can just have this kind of knee-jerk reaction and say now you are safe.”