Former Food and Drug Administration administrator Dr. Scott Gottlieb panned the Biden administration’s decision to impose a travel ban on eight countries in southern Africa amid concerns over a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, calling the move “counterproductive.”
“Of note: The 4 cases of new variant identified in Botswana were incidentally detected in well people tested before air travel, and South African Medical Association chief said – so far – symptoms seen are ‘mostly mild symptoms, and we haven’t seen a spike in hospital admissions,’” Gottlieb wrote in a Twitter thread about the new variant Friday.
His tweet was accompanied by screenshots of two news reports explaining that the novel variant allegedly originated in Botswana. The reports noted that there were currently only six cases in the country, and the new variant reportedly came from a person who was immunocompromised due to an HIV infection. The reports also said that there had been a spike in COVID cases, but not in hospitalizations.
“Good world is more organized; taking new variant seriously, with coordinated effort to investigate,” he continued. “It’s counterproductive in short and long run, however, to impose harsh travel restrictions on affected countries; hurting current containment efforts, discouraging future sharing.”
“There’s too much we don’t know to impose economically, socially ruinous policies on SA and other nations. Ready, fire, aim is not prudent public health policy. Vaccine, testing requirements for incoming travelers could be prudent. Outright travel bans can hurt more than help.”
The Biden administration imposed a travel ban on eight countries in southern Africa amid concerns of the new variant, dubbed “Omicron.” The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported:
The travel restrictions will go into effect on Monday, but they will not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The eight nations are South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi.
Biden said that the move came after he was briefed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president.
Fauci had suggested earlier in the day during an interview with CNN that more information was needed before making a decision on whether to ban travel because “you don’t want to say you’re going to do it until you have some scientific reason to do it.”
“That’s the reason why we’re rushing now to get that scientific data to try and make an informed decision about something like that,” Fauci added.
Early testing for the new variant showed that 90% of the cases that were reported on Wednesday came from the South African province that includes Johannesburg.
BioNTech, the company that partnered with American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to manufacture the first COVID vaccine granted the Emergency Use Authorization, said in a statement that they are currently investigating whether the new variant “could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”
“The variant differs significantly from previously observed variants as it has additional mutations located in the spike protein,” a BioNTech spokesperson told Fox News.
Vaccine producer Moderna also noted that it was considering a booster shot specifically for the Omicron variant.
President Biden and Dr. Fauci have both urged Americans to get vaccinated in hopes of combatting the spread of the virus.
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