South African Medical Association Chairwoman

South Africa’s medical chief says recent travel bans represent a “storm in a teacup” and that the country has only recorded “very mild cases” of the new strain.

  • The discovery of a new coronavirus variant (“Omicron“) has triggered “global alarm,” according to Reuters, “as Europe rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year.”
  • However, Dr. Angelique Coetzee—chairwoman of the South African Medical Association—has described the travel restrictions imposed on the country as “hasty” and the reaction from other countries as “a storm in a teacup,” PA Media reports.
  • Dr. Coetzee emphasized how it was too early to tell what impact the B.1.1.529 variant would have.
  • “We think it is a premature decision that has been taken, I think it is a hasty decision,” Dr. Coatzee told BBC News.
  • “I would understand if it was two weeks later and we know much more about this viral infection that is going around, or this mutation, but for now, it is like a storm in a teacup.”
  • She went on to say, “We have only become aware of this viral mutation, or the new strain we are seeing, last week.”
  • South Africa’s foreign minister Naledi Pandor echoed Dr. Coetzee’s comments, saying the UK’s decision to ban flights in response to Omicron “seems to have been rushed.”
  • “Whilst South Africa respects the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens,” Pandor said, “the UK’s decision to temporarily ban South Africans from entering the UK seems to have been rushed as even the World Health Organization is yet to advise on the next steps.”
  • Just over 38,000 tests were conducted in the previous 24 hours, the report notes, just days after it had been reported that African populations boast low vaccination rates, low mask-wearing measures, and low Covid-19 infection rates.
  • The government of Botswana reported that the four people in the country reported to have the new Covid-19 variant were previously vaccinated against virus, National File reports. “The preliminary report revealed that all the four had been completely vaccinated for COVID-19,” the Botswana government said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“From us as medical practitioners, we picked up, last week, the different clinical pictures, we looked at the advisory committees and so far what we have seen is very mild cases. [I’m] not sure why we are all up in arms.”

“We know there are a lot of mutations but no-one can tell us at this stage if it means something, or if it is just going to fade away. We just don’t know.”

Jon Fleetwood is Managing Editor for American Faith and author of “An American Revival: Why American Christianity Is Failing & How to Fix It.“

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