Fauci doesn’t rule out more COVID lockdowns in response to new omicron variant

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“It’s really too early to say,” Fauci says on ABC News on Sunday when discussing the omicron mutation

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci isn’t ruling out the possibility that the CDC could recommend that non-essential businesses nationwide shut down once again to stem the spread of a new variant of COVID-19 that’s worrying governments around the world.

Health officials have warned that the omicron variant may be easier to catch than previous forms of the virus, according to NBC News. The World Health Organization labeled the omicron strand of Covid-19 a “variant of concern” on Friday.

Public health officials have been keeping a close eye on the mutated virus, which began making headlines in South Africa last week. A host of countries, including the United States and Canada, have announced new travel restrictions for visitors from southern Africa in order to control its spread within their boundaries.

On Sunday, ABC’s This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Fauci if he expects to see more COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates issued in the U.S. in response to the omicron variant.

“It’s really too early to say,” Fauci replied. “We just really need to, as I’ve said so often, prepare for the worst. It may not be that we’re gonna have to go the route that people are saying.”

The comments come more than a week after Austria resorted to a national lockdown as coronavirus infections hit a record high, jolting the government to renege on promises that strict shutdowns were a thing of the past.

In response to news about the omicron variant, President Joe Biden issued a statement on Saturday advising unvaccinated Americans to get the shot and telling vaccinated Americans to get booster shots to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations,” Biden said.

Biden deflected criticism from the leaders of some African countries who have accused western nations of hoarding COVID-19 vaccines.

“The United States has already donated more vaccines to other countries than every other country combined,” the president said. “It is time for other countries to match America’s speed and generosity.

President Joe Biden speaks on the economy during an event at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on November 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks on the economy during an event at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on November 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Biden also called on leaders participating in this week’s World Trade Organization ministerial meeting to waive intellectual property protections for COVID vaccines, so they can be manufactured globally.

“I endorsed this position in April,” Biden said. “This news today reiterates the importance of moving on this quickly.”

Fauci said health officials don’t know enough about the omicron variant yet to say with certainty how the public should respond to it.

“We want to prepare as best as we can,” Fauci added. “But it may turn out that this preparation, although important, may not necessarily push us to the next level, people talking about lockdowns, people talking about that. Let’s see what the information that we’re getting in real time tells us and we’ll make decisions based on the science and the evidence the way we always do.”

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