Biden: Omicron variant is cause for concern, but not panic

Washington, Nov 29 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Monday said that the new Omicron Covid-19 variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” adding that experts do not feel that “additional measures” are needed at this time to guard against the new strain.

The president made his remarks at a speech at the White House accompanied by the government’s top epidemiologist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Biden said that the country is in a “better situation” than during last year’s Christmas holidays, and he urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to get booster shots if they have already been inoculated.

It is “almost inevitable,” Biden said, that the new variant, first identified in South Africa, will arrive in the US at some point.

Starting on Monday, the US imposed restrictions on travelers coming from South Africa and seven other countries in southern Africa.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said, adding that “We have more tools to fight the variant than we have ever had before.”

“We have the best vaccine in the world. The best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day. And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion,” the president said.

“We’re going to fight and beat this new variant as well,” he declared.

“Travel restrictions can slow the speed of Omicron, it cannot prevent it. Here’s what it does: it gives us time,” Biden said. “It gives us time to take more actions. To move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get the vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster.”

If people continue wearing masks and following other anti-Covid health protocols, there is no need for further restrictive measures at this time, said Biden.

The president also said that on Thursday he will present a “detailed strategy” to combat the pandemic this winter without resorting to lockdowns, despite the concern sparked over the new Omicron variant.

He said he would visit the National Institutes of Health outside of Washington, the main public medical research center in the US, to reveal his administration’s plan to fight Covid this winter.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing minutes afterwards that the strategy will be based on expanding the number of people who have been vaccinated, providing booster shots and more testing, among other things.

Canada announced Monday that two Omicron cases had been detected in its territory and these are evidently the first cases to appear in North America so far.

The US is the country with the highest official death toll from Covid to date, more than 775,000. Almost 60 percent of the country’s population have been fully vaccinated and about 20 percent have received booster shots.

EFE afs/pamp-llb/eat-lll/bp

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