Coronavirus test
Coronavirus testDavid Cohen/Flash90

Professor Barry Schoub, who advises South Africa's President on issues relating to COVID-19, on Friday said that he estimates those who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will not suffer severe illness from the new "Omicron" COVID-19 variant, even if they test positive.

The former head of South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases also said that it's also not certain if they will have mild cases.

Speaking to Kan Reshet Bet, Prof. Schoub explained: "This is a brand-new variant, it's a variant which was detected only a few - actually, a week ago in fact - but in Botswana, which is a neighboring country, and South Africa."

"So it's a new variant, and what's worrying us about this variant is it's got many more mutations than any of the other variants. It's got over 30 mutations, and the worrying thing is that these mutations are in the what we call the spike protein. The spike protein is that protein on the surface of the virus which the virus needs to get into cells and then establish infection. And many of these mutations, the changes in the spike protein, we know from other variants are associated with first of all being more contagious, more transmissible, and also escaping from immunity.

"We've never had anything like this in any of the variants. So it's a completely new variant unrelated to any of the other variants, it's on its own evolutionary branch, completely separate from the others."