Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, the US, December 1 2021. Picture: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS
Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, the US, December 1 2021. Picture: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS     

Washington — The US identified its first case of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in California, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

The person was a traveller who returned to the US from SA on November 22 and tested positive seven days later and suffered mild symptoms, officials said.

That patient was fully vaccinated but did not have a booster shot, according to Dr Anthony Fauci, a top US infectious disease official, who briefed reporters at the White House.

“The individual is self-quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted and all close contacts thus far have tested negative,” said Fauci, who also serves as an adviser to President Joe Biden. “The individual was fully vaccinated and experienced mild symptoms which are improving at this point.”

“We knew it was just a matter of time,” Fauci said.

The Biden administration’s restrictions on travel from Southern Africa because of the omicron coronavirus variant will be temporary, Fauci said.

Fauci said a day earlier that it was too soon to say how transmissible, harmful and vaccine-resistant the variant will be. “We’re really very early in the process,” he said Wednesday in a briefing for reporters.

Vaccines should give “at least some degree of cross-protection, particularly against severe disease”.

The travel ban won’t prevent infected people from arriving “but we needed to buy some time to be able to prepare,” Fauci said. 

For days, US health officials have said the new variant — first identified in SA and announced on November 25 — was likely already in the US. It has been found in at least 23 other countries.

Omicron, called a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is being studied to see if it is more contagious or causes severe illness than other variants.

Reuters 

subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.