U.S. testing czar doesn't believe U.K. travel ban is necessary yet despite new COVID-19 variant

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NYU Langone pulmonologist Dr. Qanta Ahmed provides insight on ‘Fox and Friends Weekend.’

On Sunday, several European countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria and Ireland announced new restrictions on flights to the United Kingdom in order to prevent the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus in England. 

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When asked if a similar move could happen in the United States, testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir told ABC's "This Week" that he doesn't believe a ban on travel to the U.K. is necessary yet.

Giroir noted that health officials have seen almost 4,000 different mutations of the coronavirus and that there is "no indication" that the variant in the U.K. is "overcoming England."

"I read the British medical journals this morning, it's up to 20% of cases in one county, aside from that it is very low and we don't know that it is more dangerous," Giroir said. "I don't think there should be any reason for alarm right now."  

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U.S. health authorities at the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "looking very closely" into the variant, according to Operation Warp Speed's chief scientific adviser Moncef Slaoui.

Slaoui told CNN's State of the Union that health officials "don't know" if the variant is currently present in the United States. However, he noted that no strain of the virus appears to be resistant to any of the currently available vaccines as of this moment.

"Up to now, I don’t think there has been a single variant that would be resistant to the vaccine," Slaoui said. "We can’t exclude it, but it’s not there now, and this particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to escape vaccine immunity."  

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The comments come as millions of doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine were sent out for use in the United States, Britain, Canada and other countries.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency is set to meet on Monday to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for the European Union's 27 nations, bringing vaccinations closer for millions of EU citizens. 

The EMA moved up its assessment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by a week after heavy pressure from EU governments, especially Germany, which has said that after the EMA approval it could start vaccinating citizens as early as next Sunday.

Britain has seen more than 67,000 deaths in the pandemic, the second-highest confirmed toll in Europe after Italy. Europe as a whole has recorded nearly 499,000 virus deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts believe it is an undercount, due to limited testing and missed cases.

As for the United States, there are more than 17.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 317,000 Americans who have died due to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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