- The new Omicron coronavirus variant could have already reached the United States undetected.
- Expert Anthony Fauci acknowledged the possibility that the Omicron variant is in the country.
- Amsterdam isolated 61 passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 while authorities investigate whether it is the Omicron variant.
Omicron is the new variant of Covid-19 identified in Southern Africa. Anthony Fauci admitted this Saturday, November 27, that it is possible that it has already arrived in the United States. However, the US government’s chief adviser for medical issues said it has not been detected yet.
Fauci said in an NBC interview that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the new variant is already in the US. When a virus is so easily transmitted and there are already cases in other countries as a result of travel, it will “almost invariably” end up reaching everywhere,” he added.
The US admits that the Omicron variant could have arrived undetected
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that they have not detected cases of the Omicron strain in the country. Late on Friday, the governor of New York, the Democrat Kathy Hochul, was the first to declare a state of emergency for the new variant. It will take effect on December 3 until January 15.
With this measure, Hochul seeks to increase the response capacity of hospitals against Covid-19. They will do this by prohibiting nonessential actions in certain circumstances. They will also expand the state’s capacity to purchase emergency medical supplies.
Why are scientists concerned about the Omicron variant?
The detection of the Omicron variant in Southern Africa worries the scientific community because it presents an amalgam of more than 30 mutations. Although some had been observed in other variants, such as Beta, this is the first time they have been seen together, EFE reported.
Fearing this new strain, several countries around the world, including the European Union, have shut down air traffic from Southern African countries, especially South Africa and Botswana. The United States, Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Canada, Austria, and Israel are among the nations that have temporarily suspended travel or have announced that they will impose restrictions (from EFE).
Amsterdam isolated 61 passengers
The newspaper El Universal reported that at least 61 passengers on two flights from South Africa tested positive for Covid-19. They underwent a PCR test upon landing in Amsterdam after the ban on flights from Southern African nations came into force. However, it is not yet clear if they are infected with the Omicron variant.
According to El Universal, a health team arrived on the afternoon of Friday, November 26, at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. A flight from Johannesburg and another from Cape Town had landed, and the health team would test 600 passengers. All were held in an area of the terminal, separated from the others at the airport. The PCR test results came in the afternoon and evening.
Covid infections confirmed in Amsterdam
As of this writing, 61 people have been infected, although it is still unknown if it’s the Omicron variant. They are staying in a hotel in Schiphol under the surveillance of local authorities. They will serve a quarantine of at least seven days if they present symptoms and five days if they are asymptomatic, El Universal reported.
According to the newspaper, the passengers who tested negative must also undergo a five-day home quarantine until a new PCR is done. If the results are negative, the quarantine will be lifted.
US announced restrictions and Biden issued a warning
The US government announced that as of next Monday, November 29, it will place restrictions on travelers from South Africa and seven other countries from Southern Africa, EFE reported.
In a statement, the White House announced that the restrictions will include Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, and Eswatini in addition to South Africa. The government only referred to “restrictions on air traffic” and did not give more details about the implications, EFE said.
The US will apply Omicron variant restrictions
US President Biden made this important decision following the recommendations of Anthony Fauci and the CDC.
The restrictions will not affect US citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States who are in those countries. However, they will have to present a negative Covid-19 test before flying to the United States, the EFE report stated.
Biden issued a warning for Omicron variant
The White House said the government is taking this measure as “an excess of caution” in the face of all the unknowns that still surround the Omicron variant. The restrictions were announced just as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new variant a “risk variant” on Friday. WHO baptized it with the Greek letter omicron, EFE stated.
According to Newsweek, Biden warned on Friday that Omicron “spreads rapidly.” He urged fully vaccinated people in the United States to get booster shots to protect themselves from the new strain first discovered in South Africa.
Biden on the Omicron variant: “It is of great concern”
“We don’t know a lot about the variant, except that it is of great concern. It seems to spread rapidly,” Biden told reporters in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on Friday, according to a CBS News report cited by Newsweek. After meeting with Fauci, he mentioned air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries from November 29. This is to curb the spread of Omicron, but how long the bans would last was not mentioned.
“Get your booster shot now, so you can have this extra protection during the holiday season,” Biden urged fully vaccinated Americans. He also urged adults and children who have not yet received the Covid-19 vaccine to “get vaccinated today.”
Is the Omicron variant more contagious?
According to EFE, WHO experts pointed out that the new variant seems more contagious than the previous ones. But there is still no data to determine if it is more or less resistant to vaccines. So far, the Omicron variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong (China), and Belgium.
Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Austria, Canada, and Israel have also announced restrictions on travelers from Southern Africa, according to EFE.
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