U.S. to release new rules for foreign travelers amid growing concerns over omicron variant

The first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in the U.S. Wednesday — a discovery most health officials had said was inevitable. A case was confirmed in San Francisco, California, on the eve of new requirements for travelers arriving in the U.S. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In our other major story, the U.S. joined at least two dozen countries reporting the arrival of COVID-19's Omicron variant.

    A case was confirmed in San Francisco on the eve of new requirements for travelers arriving in the U.S.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden: We knew that it was just a matter of time before the first case of Omicron would be detected in the United States.

  • William Brangham:

    Confirmation of that first case came this afternoon at the White House from infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci:

    The individual was a traveler who returned from South Africa on November the 22nd, and tested positive. The individual is self-quarantining and all close contacts have been contacted, and all close contacts thus far have tested negative.

  • William Brangham:

    The news of Omicron's arrival here broke as the Biden administration plans to announce new travel restrictions tomorrow.

    The CDC says it will soon require a negative COVID test 24 hours before departure for all international flyers coming to America. The agency also reportedly has asked airlines to share the names and contact information for passengers recently arriving from one of the eight Southern African countries where Omicron is present.

    But even as concerns grow over the new strain, the Delta variant remains dominant in the U.S. and in Europe. South Korea is experiencing a similar Delta surge, reporting its highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began. It also confirmed its first known case of Omicron, linked to passengers traveling from Nigeria.

    In Japan, a second person tested positive for the variant today. And officials blocked new reservations for all incoming flights through the end of December.

    The World Health Organization today said data on how contagious Omicron is could come within days, and it warned again that travel bans could do more harm than good.

  • Dr. Michael J. Ryan, World Health Organization:

    Our concern here is that we apply public health principles, not political principles, to selecting measures that are used to control the spread of disease.

  • William Brangham:

    Instead, public health officials again stressed the need for more vaccines to be sent to vulnerable countries.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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