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The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommended eight steps at a White House Covid-19 response team briefing on Tuesday, including getting vaccinated, getting a booster shot if already vaccinated, using masks, avoiding crowds, gathering outdoors as much as possible, maintaining physical distancing, getting tested and isolating if tested positive for Covid-19.
“These things we have been doing, we need to keep doing them,” he said.
Dr Fauci’s recommendations came a day after he urged people not to panic about the emergence of the new variant, which was first detected and announced by South Africa on 25 November.
On Tuesday, Dr Fauci said that though there were no omicron-related Covid cases in the US, infections were on the rise across the world. “Confirmed cases, as of yesterday, was 205 in 18 countries. And just this morning, that’s gone up to 226 in 20 countries,” Dr Fauci said.
He added that it was difficult to know whether the variant will be associated with a more severe bout of Covid-19 infection.
“This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern, and although some mutations are also found in delta, this is not delta,” said Dr Fauci. “These mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion.”
“We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” he had said on Sunday.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the government has already stepped up surveillance of international travellers at airports, reported CNBC.
She added that genome sequencing has also been increased in the country, and 99.9 per cent of the cases were still of the delta variant.
On Monday, President Joe Biden urged people not to panic and said that the best protection against the variant was to get vaccinated.
Mr Biden added that the White House was “already working” to develop “contingency plans” for vaccines and boosters “if needed” with drug manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
After the omicron variant was found, several countries in Europe and Asia as well as Australia tightened their border restrictions and banned air travel from South Africa.
The WHO has categorised it as “variant of concern” but said more research is needed to conclude on its transmissibility and the severity of disease it presents.