A DOCTOR who treated patients with the Omicron variant says it causes “unusual” symptoms – including intense fatigue and high heart rate.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, who runs a private clinic in Pretoria, said it does not cause loss of taste or smell like previous versions of Covid.
“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” she said.
“We had one very interesting case, a kid about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better.
“What we have to worry about is older, unvaccinated people. If they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe form of the disease.”
The Omicron strain, or B.1.1.529, is feared to be more transmissible and may be able to avoid vaccines.
It has 50 genetic mutations, most of which have been identified in previous variants, along with three brand-new changes.
Prof Lawrence Young, of Warwick Medical School, said: “This new variant is very worrying. It is the most heavily mutated version we have seen to date.
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“This variant carries some changes we’ve seen previously in other variants but never all together in one virus. It also has novel mutations that we’ve not seen before.
“Some of the mutations that are similar to changes we’ve seen in other variants of concern are associated with enhanced transmissibility and with partial resistance to immunity.
“We need laboratory studies to determine whether the antibodies induced by current vaccines are able to block infection with this variant.”
Today, another case of the super-strain was identified in the UK – bringing the total to three.
The person tested positive after travelling to Britain from southern Africa where the variant originated.
NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS
The individual is no longer in the UK, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is carrying out urgent testing in areas they visited when they were likely to have been infectious.
This includes Westminster in central London, officials said.
In a bid to stamp out high-speed transmission, ministers have announced the reintroduction of a string of Covid restrictions.
This includes the return of mandatory mask-wearing in shops and public transport from Tuesday.
Passengers arriving in the UK from Tuesday morning will have to take a PCR test, with the expectation they will self-isolate until they test negative.
All contacts with a suspected case of Omicron will have to isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
The variant prompted the government to put 10 African countries on the UK’s red list for travel – South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
The plans stop short of introducing Plan B, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted it was “nowhere near” time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance – and told Brits to prepare for Christmas as normal.