National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institute director Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday on CNN's "New Day" that the United States was gathering data on the new COVID variant B.1.1.529 before deciding to ban flights from South Africa.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institute director Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday on CNN's "New Day" that the United States was gathering data on the new COVID variant B.1.1.529 before deciding to ban flights from South Africa.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Institute director Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday on CNN’s “New Day” that the United States was gathering data on the new COVID variant B.1.1.529 before deciding to ban flights from South Africa.

Anchor Brianna Keilar said, “Is it possible it’s already in the U.S.?”

Fauci said, “You know, of course, anything is possible. We don’t know that. There is no indication that it is right now.”

Keilar said, “In the meantime, the U.K. has banned air travel from the South African countries. Do you think the U.S. should do that?”

Fauci said, “Well, I mean obviously, as soon as we find out more information, we will make a decision as quickly as we possibly can. You always put these things on the table. But you don’t want to say you are going to do it until you have scientific reason to do it. That is the reason why we are rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision about something like that.”

Keilar said, “So if the U.S. starts to see — yes, I know we are awaiting more information. We need to understand how this works. But if the U.S. starts to see these cases of this particular strain, what immediate measures have to be taken?”

Fauci said, “First of all, you want to find out if, in fact, it does evade the vaccines we are doing. There is always the possibility of doing what the U.K. has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries. We don’t know that. That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do. You’re prepared to do everything you need to protect the American public. But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that. That is what we are doing right now.”

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Pam Key