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Omicron variant is 'almost definitely here already' in the US, former FDA commissioner says

Business Insider US

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb during a November 7 appearance on "Face the Nation."
  • Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the omicron variant of Covid-19 is "almost definitely here already."
  • The CDC said Saturday that no cases of the variant have been detected in the United States yet. 
  • Two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been discovered in the UK, the country's health secretary said Saturday.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

The former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the omicron variant of Covid-19 is "almost definitely" in the United States. 

It comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that there have not been any cases as the variant as of yet. 

"Well, it's almost definitely here already. Just looking at the number of cases coming off planes this weekend, it's almost a certainty that there have been cases that have gotten into the United States," former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News

 

The Omicron variant was first discovered by genetic sequencing in South Africa. Public health experts say it contains signs of being more transmissible or dangerous than other strains of the disease.

Two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in the UK, the nation's secretary of state for health and social care announced Saturday, Insider's Connor Perrett reported. The variant has also been detected in Israel, Botswana, Hong Kong, Belgium. The US is planning to restrict travel from eight countries in southern Africa on Monday, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, and Namibia.

Gottlieb said the restrictions are "very punitive," suggesting it would be more effective to institute a vaccination requirement and require a negative PCR test result within 24 hours of travel. He added that travel bans disincentivise other countries to sequence strains of the virus and report new variants. 

"These kinds of restrictions are going to reduce introductions that could buy us perhaps a couple of weeks," Gottlieb said. "But we didn't need to close off travel. And, unfortunately, we're punishing South Africa for doing the right thing."

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