Recent statements by President Biden about the new omicron coronavirus variant was a cause of concern and not a cause to panic while maintaining his administration’s plan for combating COVID-19 this winter won’t involve “shutdowns nor lockdowns” but rather a strategy to spread vaccinations. The White House address was given by the president just days after the World Health Organization had designated omicron as a “variant concern”, its most serious classification, a COVID-19 variation.
Biden last week restricted travel from South Africa, and seven other countries, due to concerns about the “heavily mutational” omicron version of COVID-19. He said that Monday gives the United States “time.”
Biden stated, “It gives you time,” and that Americans need to “understand that they have to get their vaccine, that you have got the shot, that they have to get the booster.”
Biden said, “Sooner than later, we’re gonna see cases of this variant here in America,”. “We will have to face this new threat as we have faced others before.” However, the president stressed that the omicron variant was a “cause of concern, and not a reason for panic.”
He said that “we have the best vaccines in the world, best medicines, and the best scientists” and added that the U.S. would fight the variant “with scientific and knowledgeable action and speed – not chaos and confusion.”
Biden stated that the U.S. has more tools than ever to combat the omicron variant. He cited vaccines and boosters as well as vaccines for children.
The president expressed concern about the possibility that the new Omicron variant might be resistant to existing vaccines. However, he stated that the administration was working to speed up the development of updated vaccinations as needed.
Biden stated that “in the unlikely event” that new boosters or vaccinations are required to combat this new variant of the virus, Biden would accelerate their development and deployment using every tool at his disposal. “We don’t believe additional measures will be required,” Biden said.
Biden said that his administration was working with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna to create “contingency plans if necessary” and will direct Food and Drug Administration staff to approve and place these potential vaccines on the market if necessary “without any cutting corners.”
According to the president, the White House will release an updated strategy for fighting COVID-19 in the winter months. This strategy, he stated, would not include “shutdowns” or lockdowns but rather “more widespread vaccinations and testing, and more.”
When asked why he was taking the shutdowns off of the table, he replied: “If people have been vaccinated and are wearing their masks, then there is no need to lock them down.”
Biden reiterated the importance of sharing vaccine supply across the globe and said that he would “always ensure our people are protected first.” However, he warned that COVID-19’s delta and omicron versions were “elsewhere” in the world.
The president followed Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in his decision to limit travel from many African countries. This was after the identification and treatment of the variant which officials stated is highly contagious among young people. American citizens and lawful permanent residents are exempt from travel restrictions. However, all international travelers must be negative before they can travel.
Biden stated Monday that his administration does not plan to increase travel restrictions to other nations at this time.
According to the World Health Organization, it may take time to assess the full extent of the threat posed by omicron. WHO stated that it wasn’t yet clear if omicron is more transmittable – easier to spread between people – and also said it wasn’t known if omicron infection would cause more severe diseases.