The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding its surveillance at four major international airports in the United States to test for COVID-19, including obtaining personal information on passengers from airlines for possible contact tracing.
Federal officials say the agency, which ostensibly is limited to providing guidance for decision-makers, may impose more travel restrictions and rules related to the emergence of the latest novel coronavirus variant, omicron, reported Epoch News.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Tuesday that the CDC is expanding its surveillance at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and San Francisco International Airport.
She said the program “allows for increased COVID testing for specific international arrivals, increasing our capacity to identify those with COVID-19 on arrival to the United States and enhancing our surveillance for the Omicron variant.”
Omicron cases have been detected in five states. The U.S. already has imposed travel restrictions on eight southern African nations in response to the discovery of omicron in South Africa and Botswana last week.
However, there have been no confirmed deaths associated with the new variant, and a top South African doctor said her patients have presented mild but unusual symptoms so far.
World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday he understood the concerns about omicron. But he’s “equally concerned that several member states are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities.”
“Flight bans have been imposed on southern African countries, but so far only two have detected the new variant. Meanwhile, countries in other regions have reported cases of omicron,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement.
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