US gears up for Omicron, prepares for African country travel ban By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People enter the baggage claim area from the international arrival terminal as the United States reopens air and land borders to travelers vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, in S

Written by Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. health officials said Sunday they are preparing for the possible emergence of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, with restrictions set to begin Monday against travelers from eight countries in South Africa.

Inevitably, he’s going to be here,” the country’s chief infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on ABC News this week, although no cases have been detected so far.

He added that US health officials will speak with their South African counterparts later on Sunday, saying the flight restrictions will give them more time to gather information and assess potential actions.

“The goal is to better prepare us, to speed up vaccination, to really prepare for something that may not actually be a big deal, but we want to make sure we are prepared for the worst,” he said separately. “Meet the Press” program on NBC News.

The novel coronavirus variant of Omicron, first discovered in South Africa-11-26 and announced in recent days, has already been detected in an increasing number of countries.

Fauci added on ABC that the United States should do “anything and everything” amid the likely cases of the variable, but that it was “too early to say” whether shutdowns or new mandates would be needed.

Likely more contagious than previous variants, Omicron has raised concerns around the world. The world, alarming markets and the public – health experts who have long warned of the ongoing changes of the new coronavirus amid a race to vaccinate against it.

“It’s obviously giving an indication that it has the ability to deliver fast. That’s the thing that we are concerned about right now,” Fauci said on Meet the Press.

Its emergence in the United States could threaten to undermine the nation’s recovery nearly two years after the onset of COVID-19 and increase pressure on local health care systems that have already felt the weight of Delta’s latest variable.

The rise in cases with cooler weather has also forced more people into homes amid persistent hesitation about vaccines that has left many people in some US unprotected areas, also forcing some hospital systems and US states, including New York, to declare states of emergency.

Reuters data showed that 781,797 people have died so far in the United States from Covid since early 2020, the most of any country in the world, amid 4,828,375 infections.

US President Joe Biden, who is due to return to Washington later Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend, said he is being briefed on the alternative.

Meanwhile, the United States is joining other countries in their quest to prevent transmission of the virus by imposing travel restrictions.

Starting at 12:01 a.m. ET (0500 GMT) on Monday, it will deny entry to nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight countries in South Africa in the past 14 days and have warned Americans against travel to those countries.

However, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:) and United Airlines said they are not planning any changes to their airlines between South Africa and the US despite restrictions imposed by the Biden administration. It was not immediately clear what additional steps travelers might face when coming from the region as flights continue over the weekend.

Fauci and other senior officials said the sudden surge of cases had made Omicron worrying, but it was not yet clear how current vaccines or treatments would be affected. Vaccine makers Pfizer / BioNTech and modern (NASDAQ 🙂 They said they expect more information soon.

“We need more data out there before we can say with confidence that this is not a dangerous version of the virus, but we should find out in the next two weeks,” Francis Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health, told “Fox News Sunday”.

Fauci lobbied Americans to continue getting COVID-19 vaccines and boosters while experts evaluate Omicron.

“This is a clear call… (for vaccination),” he told NBC.

Source link