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.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden.(AP)
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden.(AP)
Published on Dec 06, 2021 07:30 AM IST
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By | Written by Kunal Gaurav

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.

India's Omicron tally rises to 21: Tracking the spread of new coronavirus strain

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.

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