Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that "no one feels" a travel ban will prevent the Omicron variant from arriving in the US, but that it was "needed to buy some time" for the country to prepare and understand the situation.
Fauci announced the first US case of the Omicron variant had been detected in the US, in a traveler who had arrived from South Africa on Nov. 22 and tested positive Nov. 29. The traveler, who landed in California, had mild symptoms and was self-isolating.
The individual arrived before the US instituted measures aimed at slowing the entry of the new variant by limiting travel from several African nations.
“No one feels – I certainly don't – that a travel ban is going to prevent people who are infected from coming to the United States,” Fauci told a White House news briefing.
“But we needed to buy some time to be able to prepare, understand what's going on,” added Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“What is the nature of this infection? What is the nature of the transmissibility? And we wanted to make sure that we didn't all of a sudden say, ‘It's like anything else, don't worry about it,’ and then all of a sudden, something unfolds in front of you that you're really not prepared for,” he added. “So we look at this is a temporary measure.”