Presidential advisor Anthony Fauci said the US is trying to “get ahead” of the Omicron variant now several cases of the mutation have been officially reported outside of South Africa. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director said the coronavirus variant was found to have a large number of mutations, suggesting it could evade the protection of current vaccines as he suggested scientists can predict it to be more transmissible. Talking to Weekend TODAY, Dr Fauci said: “We don’t know that yet, but you have to be careful and assume that that’s the case.
“It also has a bunch of mutations that would suggest it could evade the protection, for example, of monoclonal antibodies and perhaps even convalescent plasma for people who’ve been infected and recovered and possibly vaccine.
“These are all maybes but the suggestion is enough.”
Concerns about transmissibility among the vaccinated and those who have recovered from the virus “make us say this is something you got to pay really close attention to and be prepared for something that serious,” Dr Fauci said.
Asked by presenter Peter Alexander whether the virus could already be in the United States, the expert could not rule it out.
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He said: “You know, I would not be surprised if it is. 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 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.”
He added: “The issue of blocking travel from a given country is to just give us time to assess it better. That’s the reason for doing that.
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The patient and his family contacts were in good health, the ISS said, adding that the sequence of the sample, “attributable to the one now known as variant of concern (VOC) and defined yesterday by WHO as “Omicron”, was in the process of further confirmation.
Colombia’s President Ivan Duque said on Saturday the country will extend its health state of emergency until Feb. 28 due to the emergence of a new coronavirus strain in South Africa.
Immunologist Leif Erik Sander of the Charite hospital in Berlin said current vaccines would probably offer at least some protection against the Omicron variant.
“I’m optimistic we won’t have to start from scratch,” he told the town hall, adding more research was needed.
Germany has said it will classify South Africa as a virus-variant area from Sunday. This stops short of a ban on flights but means airlines can fly only Germans to Germany from South Africa and even those who are vaccinated must spend 14 days in quarantine.