President Joe Biden addressed the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus on Monday. Biden reassured the nation without downplaying the variant’s seriousness, saying that Omicron is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
The President also said that his administration hopes to continue their fight against Covid-19 into the winter without relying on “shutdowns or lockdowns,” and instead focusing on vaccination.
Biden also remarked on his decision to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in Southern Africa, saying that “it gives us time,” and that Americans have to “understand that you have to get your vaccine, you have to get the shot, have to get the booster.”
“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientist and we’re learning more every single day,” he added, saying that America “will fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable action and speed– not chaos and confusion.”
Biden also addressed speculation as to whether Omicron will be vaccine-resistant, and if pharmaceutical companies will need to develop boosters tailored to the variant:
“In the event, hopefully unlikely, that updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to this new variant, we will accelerate their development and deployment with every available tool. We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed.”
Omicron first diagnosed in South Africa; symptoms “very mild”
The existence of the new variant, later to be dubbed “Omicron,” was announced by South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Nov. 25.
South African physician Dr. Angelique Coetzee said that one of her patients had been “extremely fatigued” for two days, suffering from body aches and headaches. She explained “Symptoms at that stage were very much related to normal viral infection. And because we haven’t seen COVID-19 for the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test,” she said.
That patient was indeed positive for the coronavirus, as was his entire family.
However, that very day, Coetzee saw several other patients with similar symptoms, prompting her to wonder if there was “something else going on,” she recalls. Ever since that time, she personally has treated two to three patients every day who have these same symptoms.
“We have seen a lot of Delta patients during the third wave. And this doesn’t fit in the clinical picture,” she explained.
“Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to (hospitals). We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home,” she said.
Unusually, there has been no loss of taste or smell in patients suffering from the Omicron variant, unlike all the other coronavirus variants to date. Importantly, there has been no decrease in oxygen levels with these patients either, she states.