As much of the world was worried about the new COVID-19 variant, there are increasing hints that omicron may have already started spreading around the world. Britain, Germany, and Italy all said they detected cases of the new variant on Saturday as Dr. Anthony Fauci warned omicron could already be in the United States. Even though there are no confirmed cases of the new variant yet, Fauci said he “would not be surprised” to learn it had already arrived. “We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve been noted in Israel and Belgium and in other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably, is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci told NBC on Saturday.
Even though there is lots that is still unknown about omicron, the new variant is concerning because of the “large number of mutations” that suggests it could be more transmissible than other variants, Fauci said. The mutations also suggest omicron “could evade the protection” of existing treatments and vaccines. “These are all maybes but the suggestion is enough,” Fauci said. “This is something we got to pay really close attention to and be prepared for something that’s serious. It may not turn out that way, but you really want to be ahead of it.”
In Britain, the two omicron cases that were detected are linked to travel to southern Africa, Britain’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said. Officials are now carrying out targeted testing in several locations where the variant could have spread. In the German state of Bavaria, two confirmed cases of the omicron variant were also detected. The two people entered Germany via the Munich airport on Nov. 24 and are now isolating. Italy, meanwhile, said a case of the new variant was detected in Milan in a person who arrived from Mozambique. Czech health authorities also said Saturday they’re looking into a possible case that involves a traveler who recently returned from Namibia. Cases had already been detected in Hong Kong, Israel, and Belgium.