According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director jobs of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it is possible that omicron, a new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, is already present in the United States. While no confirmed cases of the new variant have been reported in the United States, Fauci stated that he “would not be surprised” if omicron has already made its way there.
“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve been noted in Israel and Belgium and in other places — when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci told “Weekend TODAY” on Saturday.
According to Fauci, the new variant is concerning because it “has a large number of mutations” that could make this virus more contagious than other variants.
“We don’t know that yet, but we’re going to assume that’s the case,” he said, adding that a large number of mutations also suggested the new variant “could evade the protection” of coronavirus treatments such as monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma as well as the Covid-19 vaccines.
“These are all maybes, but the suggestion is enough,” Fauci said. “This is something we got to pay really close attention to and be prepared for something that’s serious. It may not turn out that way, but you really want to be ahead of it.”
Two cases of the variant have been identified in the United Kingdom, according to Health jobs Secretary Sajid Javid on Saturday. He went on to say that the people involved were connected and had traveled to southern Africa, where omicron was discovered earlier this week.
President Joe Biden announced new travel restrictions on Friday as public health experts try to find concrete answers to questions such as whether the omicron variant causes more severe illness and if it can evade protection from vaccines and treatments. Travel restrictions for South Africans, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawians are set to take effect on Monday.
According to Fauci, travel restrictions will only give the US more time to assess the situation and respond appropriately, not stop the spread of the new variant.
Fauci, who also serves as Biden’s chief medical adviser, emphasized how “absolutely essential” it is for “unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and vaccinated people to get boosters” and to wear masks during indoor congregations.