Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), said that symptoms in patients with omicron were “unusual but mild” in healthy people.
Her comments come after chief White House medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci suggested the feared variant could already be in the US.
“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility, and you’re already having travel-related cases in Israel and Belgium and other places, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go all over,” he said.
Following news of the new variant, President Joe Biden announced travel restrictions around eight countries where the variant is feared to be spreading.
Travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi is now temporarily halted. The new policy does not apply to US citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States.
“As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises,” the president said in a prepared statement released minutes after the ban was announced.
Speaking in an interview with The Telegraph, Dr Coetzee commented that in patients with omicron “their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before”.
Dr Coetzee explained: “It presents mild disease with symptoms being sore muscles and tiredness for a day or two not feeling well.
“So far, we have detected that those infected do not suffer the loss of taste or smell. They might have a slight cough. There are no prominent symptoms. Of those infected some are currently being treated at home.”
Different symptoms have presented with different variants – the Covid Symptom Study has revealed there are six different types of “clusters” of coronavirus symptoms.
“All people reporting symptoms experienced headache and loss of smell, with varying combinations of additional symptoms at various times. Some of these, such as confusion, abdominal pain and shortness of breath, are not widely known as Covid-19 symptoms, yet are hallmarks of the most severe forms of the disease,” a release from the study explained.
The CDC’s list of known coronavirus symptoms includes: fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and diarrhea.