Christmas travel will spread Omicron and it is already poised to become dominant in US, Fauci says

Dr Fauci urges people traveling for Christmas to get vaccinated

Sravasti Dasgupta
Monday 20 December 2021 14:42
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What Is Omicron’s Current U.S. Impact?

Dr Anthony Fauci has warned Americans about the risks of travelling this Christmas, citing the Omicron variant’s “extraordinary capability” of spreading quickly and saying he would not be surprised “if Omicron bumped Delta off the table”.

“There’s no doubt about this, [Omicron] has an extraordinary capability of spreading,” the US’s top infectious diseases expert said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“It is just, you know, raging through the world, really,” he added.

“If you look at what’s happening, what happened in South Africa, what’s happening in the UK, and what’s beginning to happen now, I would not be surprised if Omicron bumped Delta off the table,” he said.

The Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, first identified in South Africa, has led to a slew of new travel restrictions, renewed mask mandates and several measures like lockdowns across the world.

Efforts are being taken around the world, and particularly in the over 60 countries where the variant has been found so far, to contain its spread.

In South Africa, Omicron has spread twice as fast as the Delta variant, overtaking it as both the fastest spreading and most dominant version of the virus in the country.

Dr Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the rapid spread of Omicron could have an impact on the number of hospitalisations in the US.

“When you have so many, many infections, even if it is less severe, that overcomes this slight to moderate diminution in severity because our hospitals – if things look like they’re looking now in the next week or two – are going to be very stressed with people,” he said.

This was because there were people who were eligible to be vaccinated, but have not yet gotten the jab, he pointed out.

“And that’s going to be a real problem for a stress on the hospital system,” he said.

The variant has already been found in 40 states in the US, according to the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC data, however, also showed the Delta variant continued to be the dominant variant driving the virus in the country.

Dr Fauci added that the spread of coronavirus could be controlled with vaccinations and booster doses.

“We are looking over our shoulder at an oncoming Omicron surge,” he had earlier said during a White House press briefing on Covid.

“The fully vaccinated are doing much better... the optimum protection is fully vaccinated plus a boost.”

CDC data showed 72.8 per cent of citizens in the US have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine while 29.5 per cent have received booster doses.

Dr Fauci said those who were vaccinated should be able to travel and congregate in the holiday season.

“If people need to travel and want to travel for the obvious family reasons, during this holiday season, if you’re vaccinated and you’re boosted and you take care when you go into congregate settings like airports, to make sure you continually wear your mask, you should be okay,” he said.

The US recorded its first Omicron case on 1 December. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has recorded over 50 million cases and over 800,000 deaths.

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