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African Reporter Presses Fauci: What Justifies Travel Ban on Countries with No Cases of Omicron?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Dr. Anthony Fauci had no good answer for an African reporter wondering about the science behind the Biden administration’s decision to restrict travel from certain African countries after the discovery of the omicron variant.

President Biden told reporters at the time of his decision that he "decided we're going to be cautious."

"We don't know a lot about the variant except that it is a big concern and seems to spread rapidly, and I spent about a half hour this morning with my Covid team led by Dr. Fauci, so that was the decision we made," Biden said. 

Since Fauci was part of the decision-making process, the reporter sought some clarification on how the restrictions on were devised. 

“Dr. Fauci, with all due respect, there’s zero case of COVID — of Omicron case in Zimbabwe, in Namibia, in Lesotho, in Mozambique.  What justified imposing a travel ban on countries that have zero case of the Omicron variant?” he asked. 

Fauci, who claims to “represent science,” did not have a very scientific answer for him.

“You know, that’s a very good question and important question, and we did struggle with that,” he replied. “But we wanted to see if we could bide time temporarily. So, I do hope that this gets sorted out and lifted before it has any significant impact on your country.”

Biden restricted travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Fauci later acknowledged feeling bad about the decision to restrict travel.

“You don’t want individual countries to feel that when they are honest and transparent that they’re negative consequences for them,” he said referring to South Africa, whose health authorities reported the new variant. “So, I do really feel badly about that.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the White House’s restrictions were “deeply troubling” because it’s as though the countries that reported Omicron are “being penalized for doing the right thing.” 

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of omicron, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” he added.

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