Boris Johnson predicted that there would be an Omicron epidemic and warned of a UK Government response.

As there are 1,000,000 cases predicted by the end the month, as well as concerns that the NHS could be overwhelmed with 10,000 visits per day, it is not surprising to hear of talk about Christmas cancellation and New Year’s lockdown.

To see this, you need only look at South Africa’s Omicron case to understand how outlandish this reaction can be in relation to the potential dangers.

And I should know — because I am the doctor who first raised the alarm about Omicron back in November.

It appeared that the variant had been in circulation in South Africa since a while, after being identified previously in Botswana. It was my duty — both as a GP and as chair of the South African Medical Association — to report my concerns.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the public to provide an update on the Covid-19 booster programme, at Downing Street on December 12, 2021 in London, England. The Prime Minister announced that booster jabs will be offered to all adults by the end of the year in an attempt to quell a "tidal wave" of Omicron variant cases

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, addresses the public on behalf of Covid-19 booster program, in Downing Street, London on 12/12/2021. To combat an Omicron variant ‘tidal’ wave of cases, the Prime Minster announced that booster shots will be given to adults before the end of this year.


Although I don’t regret doing it, I was shocked by the worldwide response. Britain and other European countries imposed heavy restrictions on travel from southern Africa and impose stricter regulations at home regarding mask-wearing and fines.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee.The South African doctor who first alerted authorities to the presence of the COVID-19 omicron variant

Angelique Coetzee. South African physician who alerted authorities about the existence of COVID-19’s omicron variant.

At the time, I stated that Omicron was not sufficiently well-studied for us to be able to make any such judgements or implement such policies. Given what I have seen about Omicron over the last four weeks, I am even more surprised by UK Government’s recent pronouncements.

Since then, I’ve been helping Omicron patients. I believe I am well-versed in the impact it has on people.

Since 1983, I’ve been a general practitioner and have seen patients for 33+ years. Omicron is a rare condition in which clinicians have to deal with actual patients, and not just statistical projections.

Do not take my word for this. There have been many Omicron patients with the Delta variant who tell me that while they don’t want to have Covid again, it is almost a blessing that they only had Omicron the second time.

The first Omicron case I had was from a young man, who initially believed he had spent too much time in the sun, after he’d worked outside.

Most patients present with body pains, muscle aches, headaches, and fatigue. Their symptoms aren’t getting any worse. The symptoms usually disappear within five days.

There haven’t been any Omicron-treated patients in the South African region where I live. Most have been treated at home with anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and low doses cortisone.

Keep in mind that Omicron is a common infection among South Africans. Only 26 percent of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. While this is certainly not an argument against vaccination — I cannot stress the importance of that enough — it’s reassuring to know that even unprotected bodies fight off this variant much more easily than Delta. According to current data, the vast majority of patients admitted to ICUs do not have a valid vaccine.

There is less to be worried about in the UK where vaccination levels are higher. A Pfizer/BioNTech booster can be given following an initial round with either Oxford/AstraZeneca/Pfizer. This increases the protection level and provides 70-75 percent protection against symptoms.

Approximately 23.5 million Britons have received all three vaccines to date. It’s absurd that we are talking about Plan Cs and lockdowns.

That’s what I find disappointing about such knee-jerk reactions. These reactions are not comparable to the ones we see in South Africa’s surgeries, where Omicron is rarely discussed. One Twitter user said, “Covid has become a UK Neurosis.”

The Government of the United Kingdom cannot afford to become complacent. According to the UK Health Security Agency, 10 people have been admitted to hospital with this variant of the virus in England. Omicron could become the most prevalent coronavirus in London in the next 48-hours.


Boris Johnson denied that Omicron was’somehow a milder form of the virus’ during a recent visit to London’s vaccination clinic. He also revealed that Omicron had been confirmed as the cause of at least one fatality.

A death is not enough. Will there be more? However, our experience with South Africa shows otherwise.

Although Covid-19 admissions have risen sharply in over half of the nine provinces in Canada, death rates aren’t rising nearly as fast and so is the length of stay in hospitals.

Our laboratories don’t do genetic sequencing on every death. Therefore, we are unable to determine how many Covid-related deaths could be attributed Omicron or other variants.

However, yesterday’s Covid-related deaths were 11 in South Africa. This is far less than the 578 per week average at Delta’s peak.

We would have expected Omicron to be a very deadly variant. But that isn’t what we see.

This makes it even more bizarre to look at what’s going on in the UK. People are being scared unnecessarily by this over-reaction. And if the Government decides to go into lockdown for the new year, it may do far more harm than good.

That is because Omicron could potentially be of great help to us — which is certainly not something you could say about the Delta variant.

Hundreds of people queue at a Covid19 walk-in vaccination centre at Whalley Range Tennis and Cricket Club, Greater Manchester as the expansion to the booster rollout begins due to the Omicron variant.

Nearly a hundred people queue up at Whalley Range Tennis and Cricket Club’s Covid19 walk in vaccination center as Omicron begins to expand the booster rollout.


Omicron would be slow to spread through your population without a hard lockdown. This will allow people to get the essential antibodies that will help you move towards “herd immunity”.

We will be needing all of the natural immunity we can to prevent another variant from spreading.

That can only be of value to us all — unlike restrictive measures that hit the economy hard and will bring about more hardship and poverty, with no gain beyond satisfying the politicians’ need to be seen to be doing something.

My message to Boris, his ministers and all of them is: Stay calm. It is important to take it one day at a time and not panic, as that would only lead to chaos. Following Sunday’s Prime Minister’s announcement about an accelerated boost plan, there are problems within the NHS vaccine booking system.

It’s crucial to select your battles in combating Covid. As with life, you don’t want to overreact to Omicron and miss out on various variants which may be friendlier than foe.