According to a growing number of reports worldwide, the danger of Omicron may have been greatly exaggerated. Not only are South African doctors at the epicentre of the variant outbreak saying it, but Australia's Dr Nick Coatsworth is also trying to calm the storm surrounding Omicron.
“We’ve been held back by some medical commentators who insist on focusing on case numbers,” Dr Coatsworth said, on the ABC.
His comments come after a media and political storm formed around ‘Omicron’ which has led some state premiers to tighten health restrictions prematurely.
Omicron is one of Covid’s many natural mutations. It is of note – not only because it skipped over ‘Xi’ in the Greek naming convention – but because it has been presenting as a very mild version of the virus. So mild that some experts in South Africa and Europe have suggested that Omicron should be spread to increase the population’s herd immunity to more dangerous variants like Delta.
Dr Nick Coatsworth, also known as ‘the face of Australia’s vaccine rollout’ and former deputy chief medical officer, has accused some medical commentators of ‘increasingly fear’ regarding Omicron.
“We are four weeks into the Omicron variant. To suggest that we are, in any way, behind on the booster program is – in my view – an irresponsible contribution to increasing fear among the Australian population,” said Dr Coatsworth.
“I think the AMA (Australian Medical Association) can do a lot better than that, and should consider itself more responsible in its commentary.”
The AMA published an article on November 29 titled, ‘Omicron underlines need for more vigorous rollout and national quarantine facilities’ in which AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid stated:
“The emergence of Omicron in Africa should come as no surprise, given the very low levels of vaccination in many African nations, providing the ideal environment for Covid-19 to mutate and spread to other nations.”
It is an odd message, given that Africa has puzzled world health authorities with its low infection and death rate and has now given rise to the least dangerous Covid variant on record. While the AMA push for booster programs to deal with Omicron, it was brought to Australia exclusively by fully-vaccinated travellers.
Dr Coatsworth referred to the AMA as the ‘peanut gallery association’ in a Tweet.
“Three weeks into the omicron variant, the peanut gallery association decides we’re behind again. How are those memberships going?”
He is one of the few public medical figures calling for calm.
The New South Wales Minister for Jobs and Tourism Stuart Ayres floated the idea that the government would use localised lockdowns to deal with Omicron, despite the variant presenting as the least dangerous version of Covid to date.
This is the same Stuart Ayres that warned the New South Wales public in a press conference on November 2 that, “We all have a responsibility to go and get our booster shot. If you want to stay in work, if you want your favourite cafe, restaurant or pub to stay open, you need to go and get your booster shot.”