A new COVID-19 variant, reported from sub-Saharan Africa on Wednesday, has caused many developed countries to halt travel from that region without delay. All except America, which, thanks to Anthony Fauci, dithered and ultimately put into place a tepid plan to go into effect on Monday.
As if viruses don't spread and kill on holiday weekends.
As soon as news of the possibly super-contagious variant dubbed omicron was announced on Thursday, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia cut off visitors from the affected African countries.
So did France, Italy, Germany, Spain and other European Union members. European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant explained that "we need to act very fast" and take all precautions "to prevent the virus from entering Europe."
But White House medical czar Fauci said on Friday that travel bans "were something to think about ... but you want to make sure there's a basis for doing that." He's more concerned with mollifying the World Health Organization, which opposes travel bans, than keeping Americans safe. This is the same WHO that covered up China's efforts to hide the contagiousness of COVID-19, then sponsored a phony investigation of the virus' origins and insisted the Wuhan lab was a "very unlikely" source.
Allowing travel from southern Africa to continue, even for three days, has put the United States at needless risk.
U.S. regulations require all airline travelers to present proof of vaccination -- but read the fine print. The regulations exempt travelers from countries where vaccination rates are very low. That's crazy. Just 6% of Africa's population is vaccinated.
To quantify the danger Fauci created by delaying the travel ban, consider two flights that landed Friday in Amsterdam from Johannesburg and Cape Town, with 600 passengers in all. On arrival, 10% of those passengers tested positive for COVID-19 and were subjected to tests for omicron. Thirteen, it turns out, carried the variant.
It's plausible that 10% of passengers arriving in the United States from South Africa over the weekend carried the virus as well, including some with omicron. Thank you, Dr. Fauci.
Little is known about the variant except that it has some 30 mutations that could make it more dangerous than previous versions of the virus. It has already eclipsed the delta variant in parts of South Africa, including Johannesburg.
Two cases of omicron have been detected in the United Kingdom, both recent travelers to South Africa, and one case has been detected in Italy, a traveler from Mozambique. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report no cases yet in America. An effective travel ban is important to delay and reduce the risk here.
South Africa's response to the travel bans has been inexcusable, too. The country's health minister, Joe Phaahla, called travel restrictions a "knee-jerk reaction," a "witch hunt" and "punishment." Truth is, South Africa and neighboring countries should be volunteering to prevent their citizens from traveling to other countries and spreading the omicron variant while so little is known about its dangers.
One thing scientists have learned battling COVID-19 during the past two years is that lockdowns don't work but travel restrictions, if put into place swiftly, do.
An August 2020 study in the Journal of Travel Medicine found that by rapidly cutting off travel with China on Feb. 1, 2020, Australia averted a much larger epidemic. Another study in BMC Infectious Diseases this year showed that travel restrictions, together with other measures, helped Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea avert COVID carnage.
You wouldn't know that listening to Fauci. He slammed former President Donald Trump's travel ban against China before it went into effect, parroting WHO's advice. Last week, he once again put globalist concerns ahead of what's safest for Americans.
To defend against omicron and future variants, the United States needs to improve its capacity to spot and track them with genomic sequencing, the technique used in Africa last week. America ranks 28th in the world in its tracking ability. Thank Fauci for that, too.
It will take time to determine how dangerous the new omicron variant is, but the proof is already in on Fauci. He's got to go.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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