Make no mistake: Omicron BA.2 warning from US President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 expert

World leaders must watch closely whether the new BA.2 variant of Omicron results in more people being admitted to hospital, said US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser. Dr Anthony Fauci said Covid-19 is “really unpredictable” and said leaders must “look at the balance” when considering future restrictions.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning show, Dr Fauci said it was ‘completely correct’ to see Covid-19 cases rising around the world in light of the more high strain transmissibility and relaxation of restrictions, while immunity tends to decline. He said: “The important thing that we need to keep an eye on is that it doesn’t seem to be associated with an increase in severity in the form of increased hospitalizations.”

When asked if the world doesn’t need to worry about coronavirus anymore, he replied: “No, I’m not saying that at all. Whenever you have surges, especially from this virus that has caused us so much trouble, I would never say don’t worry about it.

“What I’m saying is we have to watch it carefully, we’ve seen this rise and I think there’s an explanation for this rise.”

Asked about future restrictions, the US President’s chief medical adviser told the BBC One programme: ‘I don’t want to use the word lockdown because it has a loaded element but I think we need to keep an eye on the pattern of this who we see with infections right now. We need to be prepared for the possibility that we have another variant that comes along and then things change and if we get a deviation that gives us an increase in cases and hospitalizations, we need to be prepared and flexible enough to pivot back, at least temporarily, to a more rigid type of restrictions, such as requiring masks indoors.

On lockdowns he said: ‘Obviously when you have that kind of restriction on society there are unintended negative consequences, especially in children who are not allowed to go to school, in the psychological and mental health aspects it has on children, in the economic stress it places on society at large and on individual families. Obviously, these are negative consequences that are not intentional – We must look at the balance sheet of lives saved and hospitalizations avoided.

On what next winter will look like, Dr Fauci said: “I think it’s really unpredictable. This virus has fooled us so many times. We really don’t know and I think anyone saying they’re going to predict with certainty what’s going to happen in the winter I think is a bit of a stretch.

Kevin E. Boling