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US considers end to South Africa travel ban

'Thus far, it doesn't look like there's a great degree of severity to it,' says top expert

THE US is considering lifting its South Africa travel ban as White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says early indications from South Africa suggest that the Omicron variant may not be as severe as previously feared.

‘Thus far – though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it – it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it, but we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta,’ he said.

‘But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again we’ve got to hold judgement  until we get more experienced.’

President Joe Biden locked eight South African countries out of the US last Monday in fear of the new super mutant Covid variant, and the ban remains in place despite travel remaining open to other foreign countries.

Although the Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa, it was later revealed that a case of the variant was confirmed in Europe a week before cases were detected in South Africa.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last Wednesday said it was ‘deeply unfair’ to isolate a single region, calling the ban ‘travel apartheid.’

But Fauci said Sunday that the restrictions were made during a time when an explosion of Omicron cases were rocking South Africa as the severity of the variant remained unknown.

He said US officials are now re-evaluating the restrictions.

‘When the ban was put on, it was put to give us time to figure out just what is going on,’ Fauci told CNN’s Jack Tapper during Sunday morning’s episode of State of the Nation.

‘Now as you mentioned, as we are getting more and more information about cases in our own country and worldwide, we’re looking at that very carefully on a daily basis.’

He said he’s hopeful they’re keeping close tabs on the situation as they mull whether to ban is necessary.

‘We all feel very badly about the hardship that might have put upon not only South Africa but the other African countries,’ Fauci told CNN. ‘For that reason, in real time – literally on a daily basis -we are reevaluating that policy.’

The outbreak of new variant in the province of Gauteng in South Africa has triggered the sharpest rise in hospitalisations of any previous wave, sparking concerns of a similar outbreak in other nations.

South Africa country recorded 21 deaths on Saturday, up 162 per cent from last week when 8 deaths were announced.

The latest figures bring the total number of cases in South Africa up to 3,020,569, while the number of deaths have increased to a total of 89,956.

Public health experts in South Africa and the World Health Organisation have insisted cases are only mild and vaccines should still be highly effective against the strain, despite a lack of data.

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