U.S. public health officials were set to speak Friday with their South Africa counterparts as they sought scientific details about a new COVID-19 variant already prompting European and Asian countries to enact new travel restrictions.
Driving the news: Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN Friday “we’re rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision” on a possible travel ban.
- “If, in fact, it does evade the vaccines that we’re doing. There’s always the possibility of doing what the U.K. has done, namely, block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Fauci said.
- “You’re prepared to do everything you need to do to protect the American public, but you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
The big picture: Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. officials “just arranged, right now, a discussion between our scientists and the South African scientists” for later Friday on the new variant, called B.1.1.529.
- “We want to find out, scientist-to-scientist, exactly what is going on,” he added. “Right now, you’re talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue, but we don’t know.”