Omicron ‘raging through the world’: Fauci

US health officials have urged Americans to get booster shots, wear masks and be careful if they travel over the winter holidays, with the Omicron variant raging across the world and likely to take over as the dominant strain.

The government is gearing up for the next phase of battle in a two-year fight against a virus that has killed more than 800,000 people and disrupted every aspect of daily life.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CBS’ Face the Nation that the number of Omicron cases will go up steeply over the next two weeks.

“A big message for today is if you’ve had vaccines and a booster, you’re very well protected against Omicron causing you severe disease,” he said. 

“So, anybody listening to this who’s in that 60 per cent of Americans who are eligible for a booster but haven’t yet gotten one: This is the week to do it. Do not wait.” 

Omicron is multiplying rapidly, making COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots more crucial than ever, chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Sunday. 

Currently 27 per cent of US residents have not received even a single dose of vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is just, you know, raging through the world,” Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. 

Omicron has so far been found in 43 out of 50 US states and around 90 countries worldwide.

The number of cases is doubling every one-and-a-half to three days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

In certain regions of the United States, 50 per cent of the COVID-19 tests genetically sequenced detected the Omicron variant, Dr Fauci told CNN, “which means it’s going to take over”.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to get vaccinated or get a booster shot and said the city would spend $US10 million on an advertising campaign to promote boosters.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis, meanwhile, told NBC he was considering changing the definition of fully vaccinated in his state from two shots to three. 

“I wish they’d stop talking about it as a booster. It really is a three-dose vaccine,” he said.

President Joe Biden plans to give a speech on Tuesday about the rising COVID-19 case level, hammering home his message to unvaccinated Americans to get a shot and for those who are vaccinated to get a booster.

Part of Biden’s strategy is to focus on increased testing, Dr Fauci said.

“We really need to flood the system with testing. We need to have tests available for anyone who wants them,” he said.

Hospitals in some parts of the country are already becoming strained by COVID-19 patients and things are likely to get worse, the health officials said.

Neither Dr Fauci nor Dr Collins said vaccinated Americans should cancel travel plans – just wear a mask all the time in airports, on planes, trains and buses.

“I’m not going to say you shouldn’t travel, but you should do so very carefully,” Dr Collins said.


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