Early signals about the severity of the coronavirus variant Omicron that has spread globally are “encouraging”, according to a top US health official. grant “significant degree of protection”.
Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, acknowledged on Sunday that it was too early to know the full consequences of the new disease, but was optimistic about the initial data. Omicron has generated considerable alarm since its appearance less than two weeks ago in South Africa and Botswana.
“We really have to be careful before we make any decisions that it’s less severe or actually doesn’t cause any of the same serious illness as Delta,” he said in an interview with CNN. “There seems to be a degree of seriousness to it.”
Now detected in about 40 countries and in at least 15 states across the US, Omicron was designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization shortly after it was identified. A strain with an unusually high number of genetic mutations could mean it is more contagious and more likely to bypass the protection offered by current vaccines or previous infections.
The Biden administration immediately imposed travel restrictions on eight African countries – measures adopted by European leaders and others, sparking controversy and a gay criticism. harsh words from the WHO, who said they “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.
Fauci on Sunday said those bans were being reevaluated “daily” and he hoped the US could lift them “within a fairly reasonable amount of time”.
The White House announced Additional measures last week to stem the spread, including free rapid tests, expanded mask regulations for public transport and stricter testing requirements for international visitors.
Officials have also repeatedly encouraged vaccinated Americans to get a booster shot — a message echoed by Fauci and other top officials on Sunday.
“Boosters will be really important in determining whether we can handle this,” he said. “If you are motivated. . . we feel certain that there will be some degree and possibly a significant degree of protection against the Omicron variant if it does in fact start to prevail in this country. ”
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged everyone to get vaccinated, but stopped short of advocating for a nationwide mandate.
“I would like to see people get vaccinated, boosted and follow our recommendations. I don’t want a request to do so,” she told ABC News. “Everybody should do this for themselves.”
Economic policymakers also expressed concern about the new variant. Jay Powell, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, warned last week that it could exacerbate supply chain disruptions that have helped push US inflation to a 30-year high.
Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Fed, told The Financial Times on Thursday said it could also exacerbate worker shortages, which have hampered a quick labor market recovery. US job growth slow down significantly last month, with only 210,000 positions created. That was less than half the pace of October and low than economists had expected.
Despite Omicron’s Potential Risks, the Fed Appears poise accelerated its withdrawal from the stimulus program at this month’s policy meeting, as it took a more positive stance on inflation and gave itself the flexibility to raise rates earlier next year.