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President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden has been briefed on the latest situation regarding the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, the White House said on Saturday, as Britain, Germany, and Italy reported detecting cases.

"At the same time, senior health officials and the COVID response team have been monitoring the latest updates on Omicron and in regular touch with health officials around the world," a White House official said in a statement.

Omicron was first detected in South Africa this week, leading countries around the globe, including the United States, to impose travel restrictions on the southern African nation and at least seven others in the region.

So far, the Omicron variant has not been detected in the United States. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, said on NBC's Weekend TODAY show on Saturday, "I would not be surprised if it is."

"When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you're already having travel-related cases that they've noted in Israel and Belgium and other places, when you have a virus like this, it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over," Fauci said.

(Reporting Nandita Bose; writing by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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