PM would ‘welcome’ Gladys Berejiklian run in federal election; Omicron variant cases in NSW grow; Man accused of kidnapping Cleo Smith to face court today; 1073 new cases in Victoria, six deaths

US health officials said that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading throughout the country, early indications suggest it may be less dangerous than delta, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalisations.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about omicron’s severity.

Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalisation rates have not increased alarmingly.

“Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Dr Fauci said.

“But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to delta.”

Fauci said the Biden administration is considering lifting travel restrictions against noncitizens entering the United States from several African countries.

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