US experts say initial indications show Omicron is not seriously delta

US health officials say that while the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, initial indications are that it may be less dangerous than Delta, which continues to increase the number of hospitalizations.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN on the State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about the seriousness of Omicron.

Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and became the dominant strain, indicate that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.

«So far, there does not appear to be a significant degree of risk,» Dr. Fauci said.

«But we really have to be careful before we make any decision that it’s less dangerous or that it really doesn’t cause any severe disease, comparable to Delta disease.»

Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions on non-citizens entering the United States from several African countries.

It was imposed when the Omicron variant exploded in the region, but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticized measures such as «travel apartheid».

«We hope we can lift this ban in a very reasonable amount of time,» Dr. Fauci said. «We all feel very badly about the hardships that have been placed not only on South Africa but on other African countries.»

Omicron had been detected in about a third of US states by Sunday, including in the Northeast, South, Great Plains, and West Coast. Wisconsin and Missouri were among the most recent states to confirm cases.

But delta remains the dominant alternative, making up more than 99% of cases and leading to an increase in hospital admissions in the North.

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Even if Omicron proves less dangerous than Delta, it remains a problem, said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist at the World Health Organization.

«Even if we have a large number of mild cases, some of these individuals will need to be hospitalized,» she said.

“They will need to go to the ICU and some people will die. We don’t want to see that happen as well as an already difficult situation with Delta trading globally.”

Two years after the outbreak, Covid-19 has killed more than 780,000 Americans, and the death toll is about 860 per day.

More than 6,600 new hospital admissions are reported daily, according to tracking data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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