Omicron puzzle: Fauci says possibly mild cases, WHO expert warns about hospitalisations
- Fauci said the Biden administration is reevaluating the travel restrictions on south African countries as more information becomes available.
The initial reports on the Omicron variant of coronavirus indicate that it may be less dangerous than Delta which continues to drive a surge in hospitalisations, according to top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci.
While the new variant of concern is fastly becoming the dominant strain in South Africa, the hospitalisation rates have not increased alarmingly. But Fauci has cautioned against drawing conclusions about the severity of illness caused by Omicron based on early data.
“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” President Joe Biden's chief medial adviser said at CNN's State of the Union.
“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.
Even as the Omicron variant has spread to at least 17 US states, Fauci said the Biden administration is reevaluating the travel restrictions on south African countries as more information becomes available.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres blasted such measures as “travel apartheid" and experts have raised concern that it could affect transparency in future. Critics of the travel ban argue that the Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa and doesn’t necessarily mean that it originated there.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that ban in a quite reasonable period of time,” Fauci said. “We all feel very badly about the hardship that has been put on not only on South Africa but the other African countries.”
World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, however, told CBS' Face The Nation that even if a large number of Omicron cases are mild, some of those will need hospitalisations.
“They will need to go into 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,” she said.
On a day Lahore witnessed clashes between supporters of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and police, former Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Hafeez took to Twitter and slammed the Pakistani establishment over the shortage of fuel and cash, tagging prominent politicians in the country. Political and economic volatility has deepened in the nuclear-armed nation ahead of a likely announcement by the International Monetary Fund later in the day on whether it will resume a $6 billion rescue package.
China's People's Liberation Army on Wednesday said it has conducted a military exercise around Taiwan as a warning against its “collusive activities” with the United States, two days after President Joe Biden said Washington would get involved militarily if China were to try to take the self-ruled island by force. “This is a stern warning to the recent collusive activities by the US and Taiwan secessionists,” Senior a spokesperson of the Eastern Theatre Command, Colonel Shi Yi was quoted in Chinese state media as saying.
Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf supporters and the Lahore Police clashed on Wednesday as the former managed to push their way through the containers deployed on the streets and braved tear gas shelling after answering the ousted prime minister's call for a long march onto Islamabad.
Chinese President Xi Jinping defended China's record in a meeting with UN's top human rights official on Wednesday, saying there is no “flawless utopia” and criticised countries that lecture others on human rights and politicise the issue. Xi and Bachelet meeting comes in the backdrop of fresh allegations of systemic abuse carried out by the Chinese government against the minority Muslim UIghurs in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied the allegations.
Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has written to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to urge India to acquit Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik from all charges and ensure his immediate release from prison so that he can be reunited with his family.