Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said the new omicron variant of COVID-19 will "inevitably" reach the United States.
"We all know when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here," Dr. Fauci told ABC's "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday (November 28) morning. "The question is, will we be prepared for it?"
The omicron variant -- which gets its name from the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet -- was initially detected in Botswana last week and has since been located in South Africa, Germany, Belgium and Hong Kong, officials confirmed to ABC News.
Fauci confirmed that the new variant "appears to be" as or more transmissible than the delta variant and other mutations previously detected.
"It has a bunch of mutations," Fauci confirmed, which includes, "a disturbingly large number of mutations in the spike protein, which is the business end of the virus."
Dr. Fauci's comments came one day prior to the United States' plan to implement a travel ban for eight southern African countries amid an effort to "slow things down" in relation to the new variant.
"Travel bans, when you have a highly transmissible virus, never completely ... prevent it from coming into the country. No way that's going to happen," Fauci said via ABC. "But what you can do is you can delay it enough to get us better prepared. And that's the thing that people need to understand."
Fauci said that traveling during the pandemic is "always risky" but added that if Americans had to travel, it's recommended that they be vaccinated and wear a mask in airports -- which he said were "one of the most congregate settings you can imagine" -- and during flights to limit the spread of COVID-19.