Pediatric doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine lie on a table at National Jewish Health on November 3, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.

Michael Ciaglo | Getty Images News

The US has not yet found any cases of the new Omicron Covid variant, the CDC announced late Friday, referring to a heavily mutated strain of the virus that the World Health Organization has classified as a “variant of concern”.

“So far, no cases of this variant have been identified in the USA,” said the statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“CDC is continuously monitoring variants, and the US variant monitoring system has reliably discovered new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly if it shows up in the US, ”it said.

Dr. However, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s Weekend TODAY show on Saturday that he would be “not surprised” if the Omicron variant was already available in the US

“We haven’t discovered it yet, but if you have a virus that shows this level of portability and you already have travel-related cases that have been identified in Israel and Belgium and other places, if you have a virus like this almost always will.” essentially happen anywhere, “said Fauci.

The newly identified strain – referred to as line B.1.1.529 – was first discovered in South Africa and was a cause for concern due to the rapid rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country’s Gauteng province.

The UN health agency only designates strains of Covid as worrying variants if they are more transmissible, more virulent, or better at bypassing vaccines and therapeutics.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are worrying,” said the World Health Organization. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection in this variant compared to others” [variants of concern]. The number of cases of this variant seems to be increasing in almost all provinces of South Africa. “

The US imposed travel restrictions on non-US citizens from South Africa and seven other countries in the region on Friday. The restrictions begin Monday and are part of a global effort to tone down the spread of Omicron, according to senior Biden government officials.

The other countries affected by the ban were Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

How long the restrictions apply was not specified.

– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.

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