First identified in Botswana and South Africa, this new variant initially prompted concern among scientists and public health officials because of the unnaturally high number of mutations it possesses, which many fear could make the virus highly transmissible and immune to existing vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) technical advisory group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE), which is an integrated group of hand-picked expert appointees, initially said that omicron is a "variant of concern" and warned people of its "very high" global risks.
While its discovery prompted considerable panic across the globe, with a number of countries barring entry of foreign travelers, there is no firm evidence that omicron is more dangerous than other variants, such as delta.
Delta not only proved to be more transmissible than other earlier variants, but it also caused more severe illness. However, vaccines seemingly "provided protection" against delta infection with a reduction of effectiveness than other variants.
Information about omicron is scarce at best. It's still not known whether or not it is more transmissible or capable of causing more serious illness – although there had been evidence that it can re-infect people more readily. This lack of information could be outright political fraud. The new variant is not as dangerous as they are making it out to be.
While there had been increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, this may also be due to the increasing overall number of infections rather than a specific infection with omicron. The WHO update specifically stated: "There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with omicron are different from those from other variants."
Reports by medical practitioners in South Africa also confirmed that the advisory is false. Dr. Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and Chair of the South African Medical Association, said: "What we are seeing clinically in South Africa – and remember I'm at the epicenter of this where I’m practicing – is extremely mild. For us, these are mild cases. We haven't admitted anyone, I've spoken to other colleagues of mine and they give the same picture."
TAG-VE advisory was used by governments and the media to justify partial lockdowns and travel restrictions yet again, as they put the fear campaign into high gear. Their explanation: it's to "save lives." (Related: Omicron variant of COVID threatens post-lockdown economic recovery.)
Dr. Anthony Fauci himself gave a contradictory statement regarding the variant in November, saying that omicron is "already in the United States but has yet to be detected."
"When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're having travel-related cases, it almost invariably is going to go all over," he said.
The TAG-VE advisory also contributed to the ongoing problems with the airline industry worldwide, as it undermined business transactions, international commodity trade and production.
The official WHO updates on omicron passed virtually unnoticed, and it invalidated the TAG-VE's advisory as well as the "warnings" of Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The update also refutes the decision of the TAG-VE groups to categorize the omicron as a variant of concern.
The WHO and coronavirus experts are becoming increasingly convinced that the omicron variant is "super mild" and has not led to the jump in COVID death rates in South Africa. The WHO is calling for countries to drop travel restrictions and drop mass hysteria, and be more cautiously optimistic instead as reports suggest that it is not more lethal than the previous delta variant.
Most patients affected with the omicron variant experience severe headache, nausea, dizziness and a high pulse rate. "Looking at the mildness of the symptoms we are seeing, currently there is no reason for panicking as we don’t see any severely ill patients," Coetzee said, adding that the response from many European countries was "just a hype."
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