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NIH director: New Covid-19 variant ‘should double’ mitigation and vaccination efforts



“It’s definitely not good news. We still don’t know what impact this will have. We have to redouble our efforts to use the tools we have, which are injections. vaccines and boosters, and to make sure we’re getting to the rest of the world, which the United States is doing more than any other country,” NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union,” referring to the new variant, named Omicron.

“It also means we need to pay attention to mitigation strategies where people are actually getting sick, like wearing a mask while staying indoors with others who may not be vaccinated and social distancing. “, he added. “We had to use every kind of tool in our toolbox to keep (Omicron) from getting into a situation that would make this worse.”

Collins’ comments come as public health experts, including those working in the Biden administration, are still trying to learn more about the new variant, which is circulating in southern Africa and has found in Europe and Asia. President Joe Biden said on Friday that The US will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday, in an effort to prevent the new variant from spreading to the US.

The Omicron coronavirus strain is of interest to scientists because of the variant’s significant number of mutations that could make it more contagious than the original novel coronavirus, health experts say. It is not yet known whether the three vaccines currently available for use in the US are effective against the new strain, but vaccine manufacturers say they are working to find out the impact of Omicron on their products. surname.

“We’ll have better information on this,” Collins said Sunday. “But there’s no reason to panic. But it’s a great reason to increase strength.”

Echoing what other experts have said in recent days, Collins predicts that it is “very likely” that Omicron cases will eventually appear in the US.

“We don’t have proof that that happens (here now). So I’m on the fence about that. We’ll find out, because (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) disease in the United States) is reviewing tens of thousands of virus isolates every week,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US is still suffering from a rise in the Delta variant – a variant that the CDC has said is as contagious as chickenpox. According to Johns Hopkins University, the average number of daily deaths is more than 1,000 people and hospitalizations in 16 states have increased by more than 50% in the past week compared to the previous week, the US Department of Health and Human Services said. know.

This story was updated with additional information on Sunday.

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