Mutation is an inevitable consequence of viruses. Indeed, viruses must mutate to survive. Omicron, the latest "variant of concern" surrounding COVID-19, debuts as the Biden administration and "experts" like Dr. Anthony Fauci continue to predict that COVID-19 variants will be around for a while, with some spreading faster and proving more dangerous than others. And although the Delta variant remains dominant, Omicron's emergence in South Africa overshadowed the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States and wreaked havoc around the globe. Yet, despite all the panic, the doctor who initially raised the warning over Omicron said on Sunday that her patients who have the new variant had displayed only mild symptoms and have fully recovered without hospitalization.
Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairman of the South African Medical Association, said Omicron (named by the World Health Organization) 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 noted seeing a handful of patients on Nov. 18 who arrived at her clinic being "extremely fatigued" for one or two days with body aches and headaches. They all recovered with conservative treatment at home.
Realizing the clinical picture didn't fit Delta, Coetzee said South African scientists knew of the new variant by Nov. 25. The news spread like wildfire in mainstream media and sparked a "panicked flurry on travel bans on southern Africa as countries raced to contains its spread." With just 3,220 COVID-19 cases in the entire country, the South African government called the desperate measures around Omicron "rushed" and unjust. Barry Schoub, chairman of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines in the nation, pointed out that the large number of mutations seen in the Omicron variant appears to destabilize the virus, which can make it less "fit" than the Delta strain. He told Sky News on Nov. 28:
"The cases that have occurred so far have all been mild cases, mild-to-moderate cases and that's a good sign. In a way, hopefully, it won't displace Delta because Delta we know responds very well to the vaccine."
Official statistics in South Africa show that almost 75 percent of the COVID-19 cases recently reported in the country have been the Omicron variant. Still, with its moderate symptoms, Dr. Coetzee commented it was unfortunate the new strain has been promoted as "this extremely dangerous virus variant" with numerous mutations while its virulence remains unknown. Speaking of the much-hyped variant, Dr. Coetzee remarked:
"I'm quite sure a lot of people in Europe already have this virus. We are not saying that there will not be severe disease coming forward, [but] for now, even the patients that we have seen who are not vaccinated have mild symptoms."
As a reminder, viruses—which have been around much longer than humans—are part of our DNA, and many believe have played a key role in shaping the evolution of our species. Little more than a string of genes packaged in a protein covering, natural viruses all work in the same fundamental way. Nonetheless, without evidence to back up any hysteria, the unusual mutations observed in Omicron appear to be the basis behind the recently imposed restrictions. As government and pandemic "experts" urge indoor mask-wearing and speculate how the mass vaccination campaigns might fare against Omicron, Dr. Chris Martenson offered his opinion on the variant, explaining:
"It’s a weird beast with a lot of genetic changes and it absolutely deserves deeper inquiry into its exact mutations in order to gain an understanding of why it has freaked so many people out. But we have zero clinical or outcome data to suggest if it’s better, worse, or neutral as far as its health impacts."
Meanwhile, the UK, US, the EU, and Israel suspended travel to and from South Africa and the five surrounding countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The UK Government added Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia to the travel red list on Sunday. The Telegraph reports many frustrated South African citizens insist they are being punished for having exceptional research institutions and being transparent about their COVID-19 findings.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the travel bans against his country and its neighbors due to Omicron. Remarking he was "deeply disappointed," the President called for the bans to be urgently lifted. He noted there was no scientific basis for the travel bans and that southern Africa was the victim of unfair discrimination. South African foreign minister spokesperson Clayson Monyela also denounced the bans, calling the decision "quite regrettable, very unfortunate, and I will even say sad." Mr. Ramaphosa added:
"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic."
In a rather noteworthy reminder, a Feb. 2020 article in Nature titled "We shouldn't worry when a virus mutates during disease outbreaks" offered practical guidance related to variants at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article advised against the "ill-informed discussions of mutations that thrive during virus outbreaks, including the ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2." The microbiology paper suggests that, in reality, mutations are a natural part of the virus life cycle and rarely impact outbreaks dramatically.class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9 youtube-embed">