White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the U.S. will “hopefully” lift its travel ban on eight African countries “in a quite reasonable period of time” now that the COVID-19 Omicron variant has been detected in the U.S.
“As we’re getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide we’re looking at that very carefully on a daily basis. Hopefully we’ll be able to lift that ban within a quite reasonable period of time,” Fauci said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
He added that the Biden administration is reassessing the policy, which applies to individuals departing from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, and Eswatini, “in real time, literally, on a daily basis.”
While World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it “deeply concerning” that African countries are being “penalized” for detecting and reporting the omicron variant, according to The Hill, Fauci defended the ban saying it was put in place when the U.S. was “really in the dark” on the new variant.
“We had no idea what was going on except that there seemed to have been an explosion of cases of Omicron in South Africa,” he said. “So when the ban was put on it was put to give us time to figure out just what is going on.”
Fauci added that officials felt “very badly” about the “hardship” the travel ban may have caused the countries affected by the ban.
The ban followed an announcement by the World Health Organization that the variant has a “large number of mutations” some of which are “concerning.”
Also on Sunday, Fauci hit back at accusations by Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) that he is “overhyping” COVID-19.
“Over hyping Covid? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide. So I don’t have any clue of what he’s talking about,” Fauci said.