U.S. authorities assess possibility of new restrictions on entry into the country because of the Omicron strain
U.S. authorities continue to assess the need for additional restrictions on entry into the country due to the spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain, and the corresponding measures that Washington announced earlier are unlikely to be lifted until experts have more data on the new variant of the virus. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this at a regular briefing Thursday.
During the briefing, she was asked how U.S. authorities intend to proceed: to extend restrictions to more countries or to lift the bans imposed because the Omicron strain “has already spread.”
“We intend to evaluate both. The evaluation will be done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our health and medical experts, and we will rely on their recommendations. So I wouldn’t expect restrictions to be lifted until we know more about this strain. We will continue to evaluate whether additional restrictions are necessary. None of these existing or future entry restrictions are intended to be something permanent, they are not intended as a punishment, they are put in place to protect Americans, to, to save more lives,” Psaki responded.
On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization labeled the strain of coronavirus B.1.1.529, found in southern Africa, with the Greek letter “omicron.” This strain has a large number of mutations, a number of which are of concern to WHO. Several changes in the spike protein have the potential to make it difficult for antibodies to neutralize the pathogen, which could affect vaccine efficacy. In addition, the strain may have an increased ability to spread.
The epicenter of spread of the Omicron strain is southern Africa. As a precautionary measure, several countries, including the United States, have announced restrictions on entry from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini.
In the United States, two cases of infection with the Omicron strain have been confirmed to date.