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First Omicron Variant COVID Cases Identified in UK; Dr. Fauci Says He ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised’ If It’s Already in the U.S

First Omicron Variant COVID Cases Identified in UK; Dr. Fauci Says He ‘Wouldn’t Be Surprised’ If It’s Already in the U.S

It seems as if once a new mutation of the Coronavirus is identified and named, it’s already too late to prevent it from spreading. As the United States is seeing another winter surge from the Delta Variant amid a more aggressive strain of the annual flu virus, the new Omicron Variant first identified in South Africa has now been seen in at least two cases in the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that anyone arriving in the U.K. will be asked to take a PCR test for Covid-19 on the second day and must self-isolate until they provide a negative test result. He also said the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport will be tightened.

A case of the new variant has also been detected in Italy, the National Health Institute said Saturday.

[Photo by J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images]
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, evolve over time, and as a virus replicates, or makes copies of itself, small changes, or “mutations,” can occur. When a virus spreads widely throughout a population, the chances of it mutating become higher. Omicron was identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, sharing evidence suggesting there was “an increased risk of reinfection” with the variant. It was well known that viruses mutated and widespread vaccination was one of the most crucial ways of preventing this, several scientists told NBC News.

As the U.S. and other countries around the globe scrambled to contain the new Covid-19 variant, scientists have said they are unsurprised at its emergence and repeated calls for greater worldwide vaccination efforts. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News “Weekend TODAY” he “would not be surprised” if it had made its way to the U.S.

“We have not detected it yet,” Dr. Fauci said, “but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”

The WHO and scientists around the world have called on the global community since the early days of the pandemic to do what it can to ensure all countries have access to vaccines to curb the global spread of the virus and prevent the development of new variants.

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The WHO has said it will take at least 11 billion doses to see at least 70 percent of the world’s population vaccinated. So far, nearly 548 million doses have been shipped to 144 countries, with a total of 5.59 billion doses secured, optioned, or received, according to data published by the United Nations. Comparatively, more than 454 million doses have been administered in the U.S., where around 37.5 million people have already received a booster shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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