According to the medical association there, the people in South Africa who have so far been infected with the new Omikron coronavirus variant have not yet become seriously ill.

South African Medical Association chairwoman Angélique Coetzee told the BBC that the cases identified so far in her country are not serious.

However, the studies on this variant are still at a very early stage.

In the country, only around 24 percent of people are fully vaccinated.

"Patients mostly complain of body aches and pains and fatigue, extreme fatigue, and we see it in the younger generation, not the elderly," she said.

These are not patients who would be admitted directly to a hospital, said Coetzee.

She told the Dutch newspaper Telegraph that one had to worry that the new variant could hit older people who also suffered from diabetes or heart disease much harder.

In South Africa, only about six percent of the population is over 65 years of age.

Patients suffer from severe fatigue.

How dangerous is the Omicron variant?

Read here what we know so far about the new mutation.

She added that while the symptoms of the new variant were unusual, they were mild.

She was first made aware of the possibility of a new variant when patients with unusual Covid 19 symptoms came to her practice in Pretoria at the beginning of November.

They would have suffered from severe fatigue.

None of them complained of a loss of taste or smell.

"Her symptoms were so different and milder than the ones I had previously treated".

Coetzee was reportedly the first South African doctor to alert the authorities to patients with a new variant on November 18.

Several Omicron cases also in Europe

In Europe, too, the corona cases with the new virus variant Omikron, first discovered in South Africa, are increasing and putting the continent on alert: After the first cases in Germany, Great Britain and Italy, the new mutant was also reported in the Czech Republic on Saturday.

In Bavaria, the authorities confirmed two cases.

In the Netherlands, 61 of around 600 flight passengers from South Africa tested positive for Corona.

The test results expected on Sunday should show whether the Omikron variant is among them.

The cases confirmed in Bavaria were two people who entered Munich Airport on Wednesday and had been in isolation at home since Thursday after a positive PCR test, the Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care announced on Saturday evening.

After reporting on the new virus variant, the two people affected “had their own eyesighted to investigate the variant,” said the ministry in Munich.

When asked by the AFP news agency, a ministry spokeswoman said: "The VOC-PCR, together with the travel history, raised a high level of suspicion that the whole genome sequencing will provide certainty." A German returnee from South Africa who was suspected of being infected with the variant was already via Frankfurt Airport last Sunday entered, as the Hessian Ministry of Social Affairs announced. The result of the complete sequencing is still pending. The person was fully vaccinated.

Great Britain tightened general entry requirements

In the UK, two related Omicron cases have been discovered in the UK, according to the Ministry of Health, which are related to a trip to southern Africa. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a general tightening of entry requirements. In the future, all travelers will have to do a PCR test two days after arriving in the UK and isolate themselves until the results are presented, he said at a press conference that was scheduled at short notice.

According to the Dutch health authority GGD, the passengers stranded at Amsterdam Airport are travelers from South Africa.

In addition to the 61 positive results, there were 531 negative corona tests.

Those who tested positive were accommodated in a quarantine hotel near the airport.

"The Omikron variant was probably found among the people tested," announced the national health department.

USA praises South Africa for transparency

On Thursday, the discovery of a new variant with the scientific name B.1.1.529 was announced in South Africa.

According to South African scientists, the variant could be even more contagious than the currently rampant Delta variant because of an unusually high number of mutations and make the vaccines less effective.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the variant named after the Greek letter omicron as "worrying". The EU Disease Control Authority (ECDC) considers the risk of spread in the EU to be “high to very high”. On Friday, Belgium became the first EU country to find an Omikron infection in a traveler from Africa. Numerous countries, including Germany and other EU member states, have restricted air traffic with South Africa and other countries in the region. 

The USA meanwhile praised South Africa for its "transparency" towards the rest of the world since the discovery of the Omikron variant.

The American Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated "the South African scientists on the rapid identification of the Omicron variant" and praised "the South African government for its transparency in the transmission of this information, which should serve as a model for the world".

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