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South African Medical Association Chair Argues, ‘If You Want No New Variants, Then Vaccinate Africa’

Nov. 28, 2021 (EIRNS)—The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus results in mild disease, without prominent symptoms, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the chairwoman of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), told Newzroom Afrika, a digital satellite TV news network in South Africa  She also gave an interview to Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Nov. 27. To Newzroom Afrika, Dr. Coetzee objected strongly to South Africans “being made the villains” because they were doing careful sequencing of COVID cases and were able to identify the new variant during a break in the wave of infection. But, she said, that doesn’t mean the variant came from Africa. Omicron seems to have very mild symptoms, she said, and she hypothesized that Europeans missed it, because they were seeing more severe signs from Delta infections, but the Omicron symptoms are very mild, more like Beta, “and you can easily miss the symptoms.”

But in South Africa, “when we all of a sudden saw people coming in, youth people, especially men, complaining of extreme fatigue, and body aches and pains, with headaches, a bit of a scratchy throat, we then started to test again, and we found it positive. ... So we were lucky that we had a break in between, and saw the new symptoms. But now, we are being the villains. It’s not right.”

“Yes, the whole picture might change going forward,” she said. “But for now, I think it’s important to know there’s a new variant; we need to alert the public to what the symptoms are, but it’s not to impose travel restrictions on South Africa, as if, again, we are the baddest people in the world.”

She then emphasized:

“If the rest of the world want no new variants to be developed or evolving, they have to start with a project, where they vaccinate Africa, because that’s where it’s going to start. We have said it before, we have said, new variants will come from Africa, especially HIV patients, unvaccinated. That’s not new. And we have said we are going to see a fourth wave, it’s not new. And we are still saying to the people out there in the country of South Africa, ‘please get vaccinated.’ We will only know in about two or three weeks from now on, whether vaccinated people are being kept out of hospital. For now, we do see infections in the vaccinated people, again, extremely mild.” [emphasis in original]

Similarly, Dr. Coetzee explained to Sputnik:

“It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well. So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.”

The SAMA chairwoman also criticized the decision by some countries to ban flights from Southern Africa as premature, because there is not enough information on how dangerous the variant is. After reports came out about the new virus strain, the U.K., United States, the European Union, Canada, Israel, Australia, and other countries have restricted travel from up to 10 Southern African nations.

“There is no way that you can have this type of knee-jerk reaction, and say ‘now you are safe.’ You are never going to be safe! ... If you look at the U.K., they have a high level of cases; look at Netherlands, their index of cases is extremely high. And I’m telling you, they have already been seeing this variant without them knowing it—and now you want to impose [travel] restrictions? ... I would say to the countries, also, look at the clinical picture, look at the signs and see how many people are infected, and then say ... what is the status of the vaccinated people vs. non-vaccinated people. But to do it the way they are doing, what has been done to South Africa is totally unacceptable.”

Appearing on CBS News’ Sunday broadcast “Face the Nation” on Nov. 28, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb also criticized the travel bans as “bad policy,” and said that Britain and other countries should have required incoming travelers be vaccinated, rather than banning them by country of origin.

The World Health Organization on Nov. 26 identified the Omicron strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations—32—which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous.

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