The WHO describe the Omicron Variant thus:
Severity of disease: It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease compared to infections with other variants, including Delta. Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.
There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants. Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks. All variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.
Angelique Coetzee, a doctor with a private practice in Pretoria and chair of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), told The Telegraph that so far Omicron cases seem to present with strange but mild symptoms. "Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before," she said.
Most of the Omicron patients Coetzee has treated arrived "feeling so tired," making intense fatigue the most consistent symptom that's been reported. On the other hand, none of these patients suffered from loss of taste or smell, which has been one of the tell-tale COVID symptoms up to this point.
In terms of other surprising symptoms, Coetzee told The Telegraph, "We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six-years-old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her, but when I followed up two days later she was so much better."
Coetzee has stressed that it's too early to make any larger predictions about what an Omicron wave would mean for the world—and if we'll even reach that point. In an interview with The Guardian, she reiterated that the cases she's seen have been mild, but acknowledged that it's too soon to know for sure if that will hold for a broader spectrum of Omicron infections.
"It's all speculation at this stage. It may be it's highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild," Coetzee said. "Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No. We are concerned and we watch what's happening. But for now we're saying, 'OK, there's a whole hype out there. [We're] not sure why.'"