A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant Omicron. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

Science and technology

The South African doctor who first raised an alarm over Omicron states that the new coronavirus strain has significantly more mutations, as compared to the Delta or Beta variants of COVID-19 which can be easily missed if one is not clinically aware of its symptoms.

In an exclusive interview with ANI, Dr. Angelique Coetzee said: "I think that this variant has been around for some time. Maybe not in South Africa but in other countries because other countries were showing a high rise in their number of infections."

"If you are not clinically aware of the symptoms then you will easily miss the symptoms. That would go on and spread the virus to the rest of the community," said the doctor who chairs the South African Medical Association.

Dr. Coetzee pointed out that Omicron has more than 30 mutations. "It's very different from Delta or Beta variant in mutations. When our scientists announced this variant, they made it clear that they don't know everything about it yet. They are just sequencing it."

"What we do know at this time is that RT-PCR tests will be able to pick it up, Rapid Tests will be able to confirm that you've COVID and if you look at clinical symptoms and that symptom isn't the same as Delta, you can safely assume it's Omicron," she added.

On being asked about her first reaction to discovering the new variant, the South African doctor said she was shocked when she found about the variant.

"I didn't expect it. We didn't have many cases in quite a few weeks. Our covid infection in South Africa was less than one percent," the expert said.

"We did expect a fourth wave but the end of December and the beginning of January. So this was premature to ask. So I just decided to test a patient coming in with symptoms that were not typical of a normal viral infection," said Coetzee.

"I thought it may be a viral infection. But...it was COVID positive. Specifically, on the 18th (November) I saw more cases with the same symptoms. Then I alerted the advisory committee. And last week then it was confirmed that South Africa saw a new variant."

Earlier on Thursday, two Covid-19 cases of the Omicron variant were detected in India, both from Karnataka, in the first confirmation of the coronavirus strain within the country's borders that has triggered global alarm.

All the primary and secondary contacts of the two males aged 46 and 66, who contracted the variant have been identified and are being monitored and COVID-protocols are being followed, the Union Health Ministry said.

By Shalini Bhardwaj

Source: ANI