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Some health officials are calling it a hopeful sign that the first people known to be infected with the Omicron variant have had mild symptoms of COVID-19, although they warned it is still far too early to understand the implications of the newest coronavirus variant of concern.

report issued over the weekend by the South African Medical Research Council said most of the patients in a Pretoria hospital who are believed to be infected with Omicron weren’t hospitalized because they had COVID-19 but for another medical reason.

Of the 42 patients, about 70% of them have no trouble breathing and do not need oxygen support.

“This is a picture that has not been seen in previous waves,” the report said; even at the start of previous waves, most hospitalized COVID patients have had trouble breathing. Still, “more time is required to fully answer the questions about the severity of COVID-19 caused by the new Omicron variant.”

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