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Fauci: Travel Bans Can Only ‘Delay’ COVID Variant Spread

White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci waits to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 4, 2021. (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci acknowledged on Sunday that travel restrictions cannot completely stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant, dubbed “Omicron,” into the U.S.

“Travel bans, when you have a highly transmissible virus, never completely would…prevent it from coming into the country. No way that’s going to happen,” Fauci told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. “What you can do is, you can delay it enough to get us better prepared.”

Fauci called for “utiliz[ing] the time” afforded by a travel ban to research the new variant and get more people vaccinated. The Biden administration imposed bans on travel from eight southern African nations, exempting American citizens and legal permanent residents, after the Omicron variant was detected in those countries.

The new variant has over 30 mutations to the virus’s spike protein, which project from the virus’s surface, and has caused fears that the variant could partially evade immunity provided by coronavirus vaccines.

“It does make you worry that it’s a sufficiently different virus that it might not respond as well to protection from the vaccines. But we don’t know that,” National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said on Fox News Sunday. Collins cautioned that it will “take two, three weeks in both laboratory and field studies” to see whether the mutations allow the variant to “evade protection.”

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said vaccine developers are “fairly confident” that people vaccinated with booster shots should be protected from the Omicron variant.

“If you talk to people in vaccine circles, people who are working on a vaccine, they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine, so three full doses of vaccine, is going to be fairly protective against this new variant,” Gottlieb told host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is also a violist, and has served in the Israeli Defense Forces.

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