British prime minister Boris Johnston’s take on the Omicron variant is ‘alarmist’, SA Medical Association chair, Dr Angelique Coetzee, told British TV Sky News reporter, John Sparks, in an interview last night.

At the start of the interview, Sparks explained that the business of life continues in South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria, despite a surge of infection caused by the Omicron variant: “People use masks and many people keep their distance but very few are panicking and that includes the city’s doctors who have spent the last three weeks dealing with Omicron.”

“I’ve already seen COVID patients this morning,” said Coetzee. “Symptoms?” asked Sparks? “Mild”, she replied.

Describing the last wave caused by the delta variant as a ‘nightmare’ during which she lost 10 patients to COVID, Coetzee told Sparks that this time it was different: “The patients really don’t get that sick,” she said, adding that most were presenting with mild symptoms such as headache and fatigue.

The interviewer then alluded to the Omicron insights study findings released in South Africa yesterday: “People who had a vaccine should be protected against the most severe forms of Omicron according to a new South African study. It says the two dose Pfizer vaccine offers 70% protection against hospitalization. People are more likely to be infected, Pfizer gives 33% protection on this, but adults are less likely to end up in hospital. Admissions are down here 29%.”

A clip of Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach at yesterday’s media briefing was then shown when he said: “What is clear is that vaccinated individuals are experiencing milder infections in general and that is supported by the data.”

“As for Dr Coetzee,” Sparks continued, “she thinks Boris Johnston’s take on Omicron is ‘alarmist’”: “The Prime Minister, please don’t say these type of things,” said Coetzee, “because that is hysteria!”

Concluding, Sparks acknowledged that the South African experience of Omicron may not translate abroad, “but there is value in the real life assessments that have been made here.”