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The pandemic

Are we blowing omicron out of proportion?

A queue for vaccinations in Johannesburg last week. Emmanuel Croset/AFP/Getty Images

Boris Johnson’s reaction to what he calls the “tidal wave” of omicron cases is verging on “hysteria”, says Dr Angelique Coetzee in the Daily Mail, “and I should know… I’m the doctor who first raised the alarm” in South Africa. Downing Street is predicting a million cases by the end of the month and there are concerns about the NHS being “overwhelmed” by 10,000 hospitalisations a day. “I gather there is talk of Christmas again being cancelled and a possible New Year lockdown.” But look at South Africa, where omicron has had longest to rip through the largely unvaccinated population, and you’ll see the UK is blowing things “out of all proportion”.

As a GP I spend every day dealing with real people, “not statistical projections”, and I can reassure you that omicron’s symptoms are “very, very mild” compared with the “far more dangerous” delta variant. Patients get muscle pain, a headache and a bit of fatigue. “After about five days they clear up, and that’s it.” Far from hospitals being overwhelmed, nearly all patients are treated at home with a little ibuprofen. If anything, a hard lockdown may end up making things worse by slowing herd immunity. By over-reacting, we risk missing out on the benefits of a variant that “could be a friend rather than a foe”.

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