Omicron mutant might speed up end of pandemic

By Emily Craig, MAILONLINE, UK

The new Covid variant Omicron could turn out to be a ‘Christmas gift’ if it causes milder illness, a German health expert claimed today after South African doctors said the strain appears to cause less severe symptoms.  

Medics in South Africa said the strain is causing mild symptoms — such as a headache and tiredness — than previous versions of the virus and hasn’t led to a single hospitalisation or death. 

Professor Karl Lauterbach, a clinical epidemiologist who is in the running to be Germany’s next health minister, said the early reports means Omicron could be a Christmas gift and may even speed up the end of the pandemic.

He suggested that it has so many mutations — 32 on the spike protein alone, twice as many as Delta — which could mean it is optimised to infect and be less lethal, in line with how most respiratory viruses evolve. 

Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia, said the theory ‘may prove to be true’ but said that high levels of previous infection and vaccination may be offering protection against the strain.

This would also be a positive sign, because it shows that the highly-mutated variant is not completely unrecognisable to the immune system of Covid survivors or vaccines. 

Scientists have long-warned the coronavirus is unlikely to ever be eradicated but will instead transition into a milder cold-like virus. 

Read the full story at The Daily Mail.

See Covid fizzles out in Japan.