National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that Christmas travel will increase the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, even among the fully vaccinated.
Dr Fauci, who advises the US government on the pandemic, said the variant was now “raging through the world” even as countries are tightening measures to prevent its spread.
“There’s no doubt about this, [Omicron] has an extraordinary capability of spreading this Christmas” Dr Anthony Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press programme on Sunday, December 19 when asked about Christmas travel.
France and Germany have issued travel restrictions while the Netherlands has imposed a strict lockdown over Christmas.
Scientists say the additional covid-19 booster shot could provide around 85% protection against severe illness.
However, Dr Fauci said the rapid spread of Omicron in the US could have a serious impact on health services across the country.
“Our hospitals, if things look like they’re looking now, are going to be very stressed,” he warned.
“The difference between a vaccinated and boosted person who has an infection, and someone who has an infection who has never been vaccinated – it’s a major difference with regard to the risk of severity,” he said on Sunday December 19.
At a White House press briefing on Friday, Dr Fauci said unvaccinated people were at a much higher risk of serious infection and hospitalisation.
“We are looking over our shoulder at an oncoming Omicron surge,” he said, adding: “The fully vaccinated are doing much better… the optimum protection is fully vaccinated plus a boost.”
Almost 73% of the US population has received at least one Covid vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So far, almost 30% have had a booster shot.
The US has recorded more than 50 million cases of coronavirus, and more than 800,000 Covid-related deaths.