Fauci rejects US travel bans given high Omicron COVID spread

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday said he would not recommend that the US ban visitors from entering the country to stop the spread of Omicron — since there are already high rates of it here.

“I think when you get to the point when there’s enough of a virus in your own country, it doesn’t really make any sense of trying to keep it out,” Fauci said during an interview with the National Press Club.

“Because this is spreading so rapidly right now, that input from countries that might even have less infection than we have doesn’t give any added value.”

Fauci said the restrictions that the US already imposed on eight African countries in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 variant made more sense because they helped “buy some time” and gave the country a “chance to regroup and figure out what was going on.”

But he said the country will likely revisit those bans now that Omicron is spreading rapidly in the US.

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2021.
White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says the majority of Omicron cases are asymptomatic infections.

“We likely are going to pull back on that pretty soon because we have enough infection in our own country, and we’re letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the Southern African countries,” Fauci said.

The White House chief medical adviser said coronavirus cases are “absolutely” being driven by asymptomatic infections, with studies showing that 60 percent of transmission is caused by someone with no symptoms.

International passengers walk through the arrivals area at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport on November 26, 2021 in London, England.
Dr. Anthony Fauci insists “vaccinated and boosted people,” should have no issues with traveling for the holidays.
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“That’s why you see case report after case report of people gathering, [and] nobody feels sick. Everybody’s having a good time, and 50 percent of the people get infected just from that gathering because clearly there were one or more persons in that gathering who had no symptoms and had no idea that they were infected,” he said.

He stressed that booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine provide sufficient protection against the virus, including Omicron.

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1, 2021.
Dr. Anthony Fauci claims coronavirus will never be eradicated.

So much so that those who are vaccinated should feel comfortable going forward with their holiday plans, Fauci said.

“Vaccinated and boosted people — when the family members are vaccinated — should feel very comfortable in getting together and enjoying a holiday meal or a holiday get-together,” Fauci said.

People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on January 25, 2021 in New York City.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says the US is mulling to reverse their travel bans to African countries, including South Africa, where the Omicron variant emerged.
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As for the state of the pandemic, Fauci predicted that the world would “never” entirely defeat the virus.

“We’re never going to eradicate this. We’ve only eradicated one virus, and that’s smallpox,” Fauci said.

People move through LaGuardia Airport (LGA) before the start of the Fourth of July weekend on July 02, 2021 in New York City.
Dr. Anthony Fauci argues the Omicron variant has spread rapidly in the US and made travel bans ineffective.
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“Elimination may be too aspirational because we’ve only done that with infections in which we’ve had a massive vaccination campaign like polio and measles.”

He said the focus should instead be on bringing rates of the virus down to a level where it will not interfere “with our lives, our economy and the kinds of things we would do.”

Travelers walk through O'Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2021.
Travelers walk through O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois on Nov. 20, 2021.

“The only way we’re going to get there is if we do what we are been recommending very repetitively and intensively — vaccination, boosters, mitigation with masks in congregate settings,” he said. “And over time, we feel confident that we will get this under control.”