FORMER health minister Dr Jonas Chanda says the COVID-19 fourth wave can be regarded as the least devastating since the beginning of the pandemic.

In an interview, Thursday, Dr Chanda said the Omicron variant has been mild, in comparison to the first three waves.

“Looking at COVID generally as a pandemic since it started in Zambia, the first in July 2020, the second wave I think that was December, January 2021 up to about March and then the third wave. So of course if you look at the four waves that we have had, the least or let me say the least dangerous of the four is the last wave which is the Omicron. That one was on the least for obvious reasons because if you look at the previous waves, whether it’s the Alpha, Delta and others, those were more deadly because they were causing what is called COVID pneumonia and that is why we lost a lot of people,” he said.

“So when you look at the three waves, especially the third and second wave, those waves were mostly, you had people being put on high flow of oxygen. That is why the issue then was about oxygen, oxygen supply and that’s why we lost a lot of people. But if you look at the Omicron, not only in Zambia but globally, it has had mild symptoms that is why there has been fewer hospitalisation, fewer deaths because of the weakness of the virus itself.”

He said people thought Omicron would be deadly because it had a lot of mutations.

“So when the Omicron was first discovered, everyone initially thought it was going to be more deadly than the three waves because it had a lot of mutations, over 40. But like it turned out, complex does not always mean harmful. So the more the mutations, actually, the less the zero rent the virus. This has been a mild wave, the Omicron wave globally, we have seen no cases of COVID pneumonia because Omicron has been more like flu other than pneumonia which killed a lot of people previously. So to me, the Omicron has been the least,” he said.

“It has had minimal effect on the healthcare system, on the health of people and generally also on the social economic status because we have also seen very few lockdowns, if any, during the Omicron and that is why you have seen countries all over the world lifting up restrictions. I think apart from China, every country that I know of, whether it is in the US, Europe, Africa, Asia, every country has lifted up restrictions during the midst of the Omicron. Initially, there was a lot of panic when Omicron came, remember the travel ban, the UK, US were banning flights because everyone thought this was going to be more deadly as it had more mutations.”

He insisted that Omicron hadn’t overwhelmed the healthcare system.

“The Omicron hasn’t really overwhelmed the health sector, the health sector and the social economic status already suffered from the three waves. This particular last one, the Omicron, I think has just been the case of severe flu and that is why people are thinking will COVID ever disappear or it will be with us in one form or the other just like flu has been with us for many years even before we were born. So it has been less devastating because even in Zambia, when you look at the Omicron, I think we did not have a case that all the ICUs are full or we have run out of oxygen, we have lost so many people, I don’t remember that,” said Dr Chanda.