‘Assume it’s already in US’: Dr Fauci calls UK travel ban ‘dramatic step’ to contain new Covid variant
Top infectious disease expert of the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, on Tuesday said that it’s “certainly possible” that the new variant of coronavirus found in Britain has already reached the US as dozens of countries announced travel bans from the United Kingdom.
During an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, called travel ban a “dramatic step”, but indicated that there could be a requirement to test travellers before they arrive in the country.
“When you have this amount of spread within a place like the UK, that you really need to assume that it’s here already, and certainly is not the dominant strain, but I would not be surprised at all if it is already here,” he said.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the new variant has not been identified in the United States through sequencing efforts. However, the CDC, in a scientific brief posted on its website, highlighted that viruses have only been sequenced from about 51,000 out of the 18 million Covid-19 cases recorded in the country so far. It further added that the variant could already be in the US without having been detected, given the small fractions of infections that have been sequenced.
“Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant among current UK infections, increase the likelihood of importation,” said the public health institute.
The United States has recorded over 18 million Covid-19 cases and more than 319,000 related deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. The CDC said that the scientists are working to learn more about this variant to better understand its impact on the transmission rate and vaccine efficacy.
Earlier, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said that the new variant of the coronavirus is 70% more transmissible than existing strains, prompting several countries to ban travel from Britain. India has also suspended all flights from the UK, from December 22 to December 31, to contain the spread of new Covid-19 variant, which is believed to have originated in southeast England.