Omicron details to take two weeks: Fauci
The top US infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, has told President Joe Biden it will take about two weeks to have definitive information on the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has sparked new travel restrictions and shaken financial markets.
Biden, returning to Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was briefed in person by his coronavirus response team on Sunday afternoon as officials expect the new variant to reach the United States despite an impending ban on travellers from southern Africa, where it was first detected.
Fauci said he believed existing vaccines were likely to provide "a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID", and officials reiterated their recommendation for vaccinated Americans to get booster shots, according to a readout of the briefing.
Biden was due to update the public on the new variant and the US response on Monday, the White House said.
Omicron , which was first detected in Southern Africa, has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, and the United States' neighbor to the north, Canada.
Earlier on Sunday, Fauci told ABC News' This Week the new variant would "inevitably" reach the United States.
US health officials were to speak with counterparts in South Africa to get "more information in real time," Fauci told NBC, adding the flight curbs would give them more time to gather information and weigh possible action.
Its appearance in the United States, where 30 per cent of the population has not received a single dose of vaccine, could threaten to undermine the nation's recovery nearly two years after COVID-19's emergence and further pressure local healthcare systems already taxed by the recent Delta variant.
Nearly 782,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 since early 2020, the most of any country in the world, amid more than 48 million infections, Reuters data show.
The United States is joining other nations in seeking to block transmission by imposing travel restrictions.
Beginning on Monday, it will bar entry of nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight southern African countries within the past 14 days and has warned Americans against travelling to those nations.
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