Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said the initial reports on the Covid-19 Omicron variant indicate that it may be less dangerous than Delta which continues to fuel a surge in hospitalisations, reports Hindustan Times.
While the Omicron variant is quickly becoming the dominant strain in South Africa, the hospitalisation rates have not increased at an alarming rate. But Fauci has warned against drawing conclusions about the severity of illness caused by the new variant of concern 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 at least 17 US states have reported cases of the Omicron variant, Fauci said the government is reevaluating the travel restrictions on south African nations as more information becomes available.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres slammed such measures as “travel apartheid" and experts have expressed concern that it could affect transparency in future. Critics of the travel ban also argue that the Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa and doesn’t necessarily imply 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 big number of Omicron cases are mild, some of those will require 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.