National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said officials felt certain that vaccines and booster shots provided sufficient protection against the variant. | Susan Walsh/AP Photo
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said Sunday that the U.S. is reviewing its travel ban on South Africa and other African countries daily and hopes to lift it “within a reasonable amount of time” even as the Omicron variant spreads through the U.S.
The White House announced the travel ban over a week ago as the new Covid-19 variant rattled South Africa. Days later, the U.S. first detected a case of the Omicron variant in California.
“When the ban was put on, it was put to give us time to figure out just what is going on. Now, as you mentioned, as we‘re getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we are looking at that very carefully on a daily basis,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The medical adviser added that Omicron is becoming the dominant variant in South Africa, though he noted that there’s no current evidence that the new variant causes more severe illness than previously detected Covid-19 variants.
“Thus far, 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 said, tempering the remarks by saying it’s too soon to make determinations about Omicron.
“We feel certain,” he added, that booster shots and vaccines provide protection against the new variant.