WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Saturday that U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been briefed on the latest case regarding the new Omicron type of COVID-19, with Britain, Germany and Italy reporting cases.
Biden, who is spending Thanksgiving with his family in Nantucket, Massachusetts, told reporters Friday, “We don’t know much about the alternative except that it is a major concern, and it appears to be spreading quickly.”
Omicron was first discovered in South Africa this week, prompting countries around the world, including the United States, to impose travel restrictions on the South African nation and at least seven other countries in the region.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that no cases of Omicron have been identified in the United States so far. The agency expects it will quickly identify the variant, if it appears in the United States
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, told NBC’s “Weekend TODAY” on Saturday, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case.”
“When you have a virus that shows this degree of transmissibility and you actually have travel-related cases that they’ve observed in Israel, Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it always eventually goes to basically everywhere,” Fauci said.
The vice president told reporters Saturday that the administration would take “step by step” when asked about the additional travel restrictions. “We’ve now done what we think is necessary,” Harris said.
The White House said that senior health officials and the COVID response team are monitoring the latest updates on Omicron and have been in regular contact with health officials around the world.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose; writing by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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