United States to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries

He said there had been infections among those who had recovered from the Delta variant and among those who had been vaccinated.

But at the same time, he said, scientists don’t know the severity of infections caused by the new variant. It is quite possible that it will spread faster but cause less serious illness.

“You don’t mean don’t worry, and you don’t mean you have to worry sick, because we are collecting information quickly,” he said, adding: “Even though the numbers are still small , the doubling time is quite fast and the slope of the increase is really quite steep.

Officials in the Biden administration said they are continuing to work with health officials in other countries to learn more about the variant.

“Restricting travel will slow it down, not stop it from coming,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and adviser to the president during his transition. “His coming here is inevitable. The environment in which it occurs may not be inevitable. We can change the environment.

Mr Biden said on Friday that the increase in the Omicron variant was another reason vaccinated Americans were getting reminders and unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated – a point Dr Fauci echoed. And Mr Biden said development should push the international community to donate more vaccines to countries with lack of access or low immunization rates.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota who also advised Biden during his transition, said the administration had little choice in implementing the travel ban.

But Dr Osterholm said it could be a while before scientists know whether current vaccines are effective against the variant and how transmissible it is. One way to figure this out is to do laboratory studies, which will take several weeks, he said. Another way is to track cases of discovery in people who have already been vaccinated, which could take months.

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