US braces for Omicron ahead of southern Africa travel ban

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (Reuters) – Americans are expected to prepare for possible encounter with the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, but U.S. health officials said on Sunday that the travel ban from Monday for most travelers from Southern Africa should help buy time to assess any new risk.

“Inevitably it will be here,” although no cases have yet been detected, the nation’s top infectious disease official, Dr Anthony Fauci, told ABC News “This Week”.

Omicron, which was first detected in Southern Africa, has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Countries -Bas, in South Africa and in the neighboring United States to the north, Canada. Read more

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US President Joe Biden, returning to Washington after Thanksgiving weekend, said he would meet with his COVID-19 response team on Sunday afternoon and have more to say later.

U.S. health officials will also meet with their counterparts in South Africa on Sunday to get “more real-time information,” Fauci told NBC, adding that the flight restrictions would give them more time to collect information. information and assess possible actions.

It’s about “preparing ourselves better, speeding up the vaccination, being really ready for something that may not be serious, but we want to make sure that we are prepared for the worst,” he said. he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

Fauci told ABC it was too early to know if any new lockdowns or warrants were needed.

“This is a clear indication that he has the ability to transmit quickly. That’s what concerns us now,” he added on NBC.

Potentially more contagious than previous variants, Omicron has raised concerns around the world and rocked markets. Read more

Health officials in Canada confirmed on Sunday that they had detected two cases of the Omicron variant of the virus among two people who recently traveled to Nigeria.

Its appearance in the United States, where 30% of the population did not obtain single dose of vaccine, could threaten to undermine the country’s recovery almost two years after the emergence of COVID-19 and put more pressure on local health systems already taxed by the recent Delta variant.

The increase in cases as colder weather forces more people indoors has also prompted some hospital systems and US states, including New York, to declare emergencies.

So far, nearly 782,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 since the start of 2020, the largest number of countries in the world, amid more than 48 million infections, according to the reports. Reuters data.


The United States is joining other countries in trying to block transmission by imposing travel restrictions.

Starting Monday at 12:01 am ET (0501 GMT), he will ban entry to nearly all foreign nationals who have visited any of the eight southern African countries in the past 14 days and warned Americans against travel to these countries. US citizens who have traveled to countries will still be able to enter the United States. Read more

A union representing drivers for ridesharing apps welcomed the restrictions. “Taking a break from some international travel could save countless lives and that’s great news for frontline Uber and Lyft drivers who transport international travelers arriving in US cities,” said Brendan Sexton, executive director of the Independent Drivers Guild, in a statement.

Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and United Airlines (UAL.O) flights have continued from South Africa to the United States since the discovery of the variant. Passengers interviewed by CNN as they arrived on flights from southern Africa at two US airports – one in Atlanta and the other in Newark – said they were not subject to any checks or restrictions specific.

Fauci and other senior officials said the sudden explosion of cases made Omicron worrisome and it was not clear how current vaccines or therapies could be affected.

“We need more data before we can confidently say that this is not a serious version of the virus, but we should find out within the next two weeks,” said outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr Francis Collins. . “

Vaccine makers Pfizer / BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (MRNA.O) said they were waiting for more information soon. Read more

“We still have to go through a few weeks of uncertainty,” Moderna chief medical officer Dr Paul Burton told CNN, saying the transmissibility and severity of Omicron were also still unknown, as well as the effectiveness of the vaccines. current against him.


Fauci urged Americans to continue to procure COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots while experts assess Omicron.

“It’s a bugle call … (to) get vaccinated,” he told NBC.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain echoed the sentiment, saying on Twitter: “The thing every vaccinated adult should do now, if they haven’t already, is get vaccinated. . “

The United States has recorded more than 1.1 million new cases of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, up 9% from the previous two weeks, according to Reuters data, with Michigan and Minnesota being leading the country in new cases, based on infections per 100,000 population.

The governor of a hard-hit state, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, expressed his concern over another blow from the latest variant, telling CNN’s State of the Union program: “Delta has been tough on us. And so we are not welcoming a new variant. And that’s a big concern.

The variant could cast a veil over the remainder of the US holiday season and potentially impact companies’ back-to-office plans based on what officials find out in the coming weeks. A number of banks and other companies have said they expect the workers to return in January.

On Wall Street, sources at major US and European banks with large operations in the United States said they were not changing their policies yet but were monitoring the situation.

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Writing by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose, Chris Gallagher, Joel Schectman, David Shepardson and Simon Lewis in Washington; and Matt Scuffham, Megan Davies and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Heather Timmons, Mark Porter, Lisa Shumaker, David Gregorio and Diane Craft

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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