Nov 28, 2021 10:19 UTC
  • Omicron Covid-19 variant may already be in US: Fauci

The new Omicron variant of coronavirus may already be in the United States, says Dr. Anthony Fauci as the White House announced restrictions for travelers from eight African countries.

Speaking in an interview on Weekend TODAY Saturday, Fauci said he “would not be surprised” if the emerging Covid mutation had reached the country via plane travel.

"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 Occupied Palestine and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over," he said.

The new variant – called B.1.1.529 - has a spike protein that is significantly different to the one in the original coronavirus on which Covid-19 vaccines are based.

Its mutations are likely to evade the immune response generated both by vaccination and prior infection. Also, it has mutations associated with increased infectivity.

Omicron has been found in multiple countries after it was initially discovered in South Africa.

The Biden administration has said it will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting on Monday.

Fauci told Weekend TODAY that the travel restrictions on African nations are a way of buying time.