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Fauci sees early data on Omicron severity as encouraging

Fauci sees early data on Omicron severity as encouraging

Anthony Fauci (File photo)

New York: America's top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has some consoling news about Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant; he said that early data on the new variant is "a bit encouraging" and does not carry a big threat of danger.

"Though it's too early to really make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it," Fauci was quoted as saying on CNN's 'State of the Union' on Sunday.

"Thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging. But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe, or it really doesn't cause any severe illness, comparable to Delta," he added.

Although early reports of Omicron shows a spike in hospitalisation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said they are 'not alarming'.

Lab tests are ongoing to determine whether Omicron is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to immunity from vaccination, and if infection is more severe. The results are expected within weeks.

Meanwhile, at least 15 states in the US have detected the Omicron variant and that number is expected to rise, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Rochelle Walensky.

"We know we have several dozen cases and we're following them closely. And we are everyday hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise," Walensky was quoted as saying on ABC News' 'This Week'.

However, World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove had only a word of caution when shetold CBS' 'Face The Nation' that "even if the variant proves less dangerous than Delta, it remains problematic".

"Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalisations," she said.

"They will need to go into the ICU and some people will die. We don't want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with Delta circulating globally."

The immediate response of countries to the detection of the Omicron has been to ban flights to and from South Africa and other countries in the southern African region, as also countries where cases were reported. Thus US, last week, along with more than 50 countries imposed a travel ban on South Africa and seven other southern African countries. However, scientists say that the travel restrictions have come too late and could even slow studies of the new super mutant.

Fauci said the US will likely lift its ban on travellers from southern African countries in a "reasonable period of time".

However, the vast majority of cases in the US continue to be caused by the Delta variant.

"We have about 90-100,000 cases a day right now in the US, and 99.9 per cent of them are the Delta variant," Walensky said.

(With inputs from IANS)

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TAGS:Covid-19 variant Omicron Anthony Fauci early data encouraging 
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