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Biden told it will take two weeks to have definitive data on Omicron variant

Stock Markets Nov 28, 2021 09:06PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People enter the baggage claim area from the international arrivals terminal as the U.S. reopens air and land borders to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinated travellers for the first time since the COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, at S 2/2
 
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By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday it will take about two weeks to have definitive information on the new coronavirus variant Omicron that has sparked new travel restrictions and shaken financial markets.

Biden, returning to Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, was briefed in person by his coronavirus response team on Sunday afternoon as officials expect the new variant to reach the United States despite an impending ban on travelers from Southern Africa, where it was first detected.

Fauci said he believes existing vaccines are likely to provide "a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID", and officials reiterated their recommendation for vaccinated Americans to get booster shots, according to a readout of the briefing.

Biden was due to update the public on the new variant and the U.S. response on Monday, the White House said.

Omicron, which was first detected in Southern Africa, has now been confirmed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, and the United States' neighbor to the north, Canada.

Earlier on Sunday, Fauci told ABC News' "This Week" that the new variant would "inevitably" reach the United States.

"It clearly is giving indication that it has the capability of transmitting rapidly. That's the thing that's causing us now to be concerned," he added on NBC.

U.S. officials were seeking more information from South Africa about the new variant. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra spoke to South Africa Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Sunday, praising the country's transparency, according to a readout of the meeting.

Its appearance in the United States, where 30% of the population has not received a single dose of vaccine https://tmsnrt.rs/3FSkZ03, could threaten to undermine the nation's recovery nearly two years after COVID-19's emergence and further pressure local healthcare systems already taxed by the recent Delta variant.

Rising cases as colder weather forces more people indoors has also caused some hospital systems and U.S. states, including New York, to declare emergencies.

So far, nearly 782,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 since early 2020, the most of any country in the world, amid over 48 million infections, Reuters data show.

TRAVELERS BANNED, NOT FLIGHTS

The United States is joining other nations in seeking to block transmission by imposing travel restrictions.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET (0501 GMT) on Monday, it will bar entry of nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight southern African countries within the last 14 days and has warned Americans against traveling to those nations.

U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. permanent residents who have traveled to the countries will still be able to enter the United States and no new screening or tracing requirements have been introduced.

Flights by Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and United Airlines have continued https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/delta-united-not-revising-south-africa-flights-amid-variant-concerns-2021-11-26 from South Africa to the United States since the variant was discovered.

Fauci and other top officials said the sudden burst of cases made Omicron worrisome and it remained unclear how current vaccines or therapeutics could be impacted.

"We need more data there before we can say confidently that this is not a severe version of the virus, but we should find that out in the next couple weeks," outgoing National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told "Fox News Sunday."

Vaccine makers Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) have said they expect more information soon.

"We have to go through a couple of weeks yet of uncertainty," Moderna Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Burton told CNN, saying Omicron's transmissibility and severity were also still unknown along with current vaccines' effectiveness against it.

'CLARION CALL' FOR SHOTS

Fauci pressed Americans to continue to get COVID-19 vaccines and boosters while experts evaluate Omicron.

"This is a clarion call ... (to) get vaccinated," he told NBC.

The United States has recorded over 1.1 million new COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days, up 9% from the prior two weeks, Reuters data shows, with Michigan and Minnesota leading the nation in new cases, based on infections per 100,000 residents.

The proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in New York state had doubled since last month to 4.23%, underscoring the need for vaccinations, Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement.

"Cases are rising throughout New York State, and the new Omicron variant poses a very real threat to the progress we've made," Hochul said.

The variant could cast a pall over the rest of the U.S. holiday season and potentially impact companies' return-to-office plans.

Biden told it will take two weeks to have definitive data on Omicron variant
 

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Comments (31)
Anthony Cloud
Anthony Cloud Nov 29, 2021 7:28AM ET
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And some people still walk around with a blindfold on
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 29, 2021 12:46AM ET
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Poor South Africa have to be the scapegoat for originator of the OMNICRON, How much were they paid for the news?
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 29, 2021 12:36AM ET
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Takes about two weeks to find a definition? Well, by then, trillions of dollars have been taken out by shorters & hedge funds lol, looks like they have a a way to short markets faster lol
James Pattison
James Pattison Nov 29, 2021 12:22AM ET
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South africa doctors say its not serious… trust the science sure changed quick
James Pattison
James Pattison Nov 29, 2021 12:10AM ET
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South africa doctors say its not serious… trust the science sure changed quick
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 28, 2021 8:59PM ET
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Since this Covid-19 started & there were so many uncertainties, & it's also getting stronger, new variances & so forth, why is government of world still opening up borders for travellers, airlines still flying? Looks like businesses, monetary more important than human lives?
Devin Devin
Devin Devin Nov 28, 2021 8:42PM ET
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Two weeks enough for Mr Democrate crowding Oil and stock price
William Smith
William Smith Nov 28, 2021 8:39PM ET
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And Biden said, "vanilla cone today".
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam
MuraliKrishna Brahmandam Nov 28, 2021 8:34PM ET
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Two weeks time delay is enough for Omicron to settle down and cause havoc
Devin Devin
Devin Devin Nov 28, 2021 8:23PM ET
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Yes. Two weeks for you tu buy the dip Mr President. Keep a good work on spreading fear..
Fong SH
Fong SH Nov 28, 2021 8:23PM ET
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lol he need to top up his retirement funds as the previous ones were used during his years of 50s till now lol
 
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