WHO says measures to counter delta variant should work to fight omicron

Officials from the World Health Organization said on Friday that measures taken to fight the delta variant should still be effective in fighting the newly detected omicron variant.

WHO Regional Emergency Director Babatunde Olowokure indicated during a virtual briefing that those measures included wearing facial coverings, a renewed emphasis on vaccinating people and social distancing, The Associated Press reported.

“The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response,” WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, Takeshi Kasai, said during the news conference, noting that travel restrictions could buy countries time to prepare against omicron. 

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“But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” Kasai said, later adding, “We cannot be complacent,” the AP noted.

The news comes as scientists are scrambling to learn more about the omicron variant first detected in South Africa last month, which the WHO has called a “variant of concern."

A handful of omicron cases have now been reported in the U.S. since the country first detected it within its borders on Wednesday, and it has already been found in over 30 countries, according to the AP.

The travel restrictions have proven controversial as some nations and health officials have criticized the travel bans on countries in southern Africa, or globally in the case of Israel, saying that they worry nations are being punished for being transparent about their COVID-19 data.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden says he didn't 'overpromise' Finland PM pledges 'extremely tough' sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine Russia: Nothing less than NATO expansion ban is acceptable MORE’s chief medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciLet's stop saying 'breakthrough cases' — it isn't helping The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Trump-DeSantis tensions ratchet up MORE, who defended countries for instituting travel restrictions, said during a CNN town hall that he “felt really badly” about the “difficult choice” made by the Biden administration to institute their own travel bans amid concerns over the omicron variant.

“We felt — or at least I felt and I know several other members of the team felt — really badly about that because the South Africans have been extremely transparent and collegial in getting information to us,” Fauci told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper. 

“It was a very difficult choice to make because we had no idea what's going on when you saw what was coming out,” he said. “So we felt it was better to be safe than sorry.”