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Covid news – live: Omicron cases in over a dozen US states as Fauci says ‘less severe’ disease possible

Omicron variant: What are the latest travel rules?

The heavily mutated omicron variant of coronavirus has been detected in at least 17 states of the US, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, as stricter travel rules will come into effect from Monday.

For the first time in two months, the US is recording more than 100,000 new daily Covid cases, around 10 days after millions of people in the country celebrated the Thanksgiving holidays.

Health officials in the US are in frequent communication with counterparts and experts in South Africa, where the new variant was first reported, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor, said on CNN.

“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Dr Fauci said. “But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to [the] delta [variant].”

One of the inventors of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, Dame Sarah Gilbert, said that inoculations should still protect against “severe disease and death” even as the omicron variant has exhibited “increased transmissibility”, including among the vaccinated.

The omicron variant has been detected in at least 38 countries so far, and on all continents except Antarctica.

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Omicron cases 'likely to rise in US'

Dr Rochelle P Walensky, the director of the CDC, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the number of omicron infections in the US was “likely to rise” as cases related to the variant have been detected in at least 16 US states.

She noted that the main concern right now remains the dominant delta variant in the US, which has led to more hospitalisations.

“We have about 90 to 100,000 cases a day right now in the United States, and 99.9 per cent of them are the delta variant,” she said.

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