A new Covid-19 variant linked to a surge of cases in the United Kingdom is probably already in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday.
“You have to make that assumption,” Fauci told PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff. “When you see something that is pretty prevalent in a place like the UK, there are also mutations that we're seeing in South Africa, and given the travel throughout the world, I would not be surprised if it's already here."
He added that "when we start to look for it we're going to find it."
“Certainly it's not yet the prevalent one, the way it seems to have assumed that prevalent nature in the UK, but we're going to be looking for it right now, and I'm sure sooner or later we're going to run into it and find it."
Fauci said since the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is an RNA virus it tends to mutate a lot.
“Most of the mutations have no functional relevance,” he said. “This one has a suggestion that it might allow the virus to spread more readily.”
Fauci said researchers are still trying to determine if the variant is more transmissible, but he said it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the deadliness of the virus.
“It doesn't make people more sick and it doesn't seem to have any impact on the protective nature of the vaccine that we're currently using,” the chief medical adviser for the incoming Biden administration said.
Fauci said researchers need to keep an eye on it to determine if “there’s more functional relevance."
He said he thinks a UK travel ban is premature because there’s not enough evidence to warrant “essentially a travel lockdown.”
Fauci said he prefers considering the possibility of mandatory testing of travelers from the UK.