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Biden pushes the punches, no more restrictions as variant spreads

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Monday called the new variant of COVID-19 omicron a cause for concern but “no cause for panic” and said he was not considering a widespread lockdown of the United States . He again urged Americans to get their full immunizations, including booster shots, and to return to wearing face masks indoors in public places to slow any spread.

Speaking at the White House on Monday, Biden said it was inevitable that the new variant would reach the United States, but he also said the country had the tools to protect Americans – especially vaccines and drugs. recalls approved.

When omicron does, and it will, Biden said, America “will face this new threat just as we have faced the ones that came before it.”

He called on the roughly 80 million unvaccinated Americans aged 5 and older to get vaccinated, and the rest of the country to seek boosters six months after their second dose. He also encouraged everyone to resume wearing face masks in all indoor public places – a precaution in the event of a pandemic that has fallen into disuse in much of the country.

Biden was joined by Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert and COVID-19 adviser to the President, who said earlier Monday that scientists hope to know in a week or two to what extent COVID vaccines- Existing 19 protect against varian t, and how dangerous it is compared to earlier strains.

“We really don’t know,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” calling the speculation premature.

The new variant is the latest test of Biden’s efforts to contain the pandemic, mitigate its impacts on the economy and bring back a sense of normalcy in the United States during the holiday season.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden said.

Biden last week decided to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries, effective Monday, in a bid to give scientists time to learn more about the news. variant and for more Americans to get vaccinated before it reaches the United States.

Some other countries are reintroducing tough travel and business restrictions to prevent the spread of the omicron variant, but Biden said the United States is not following suit.

“If people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there is no need for containment,” he said.

The decision to limit most travel from countries where omicron was first identified was intended to give the United States time to learn more about the variant and to “step up” the vaccination campaign national, Fauci said earlier Monday.

“It saves you a few weeks because if you can keep it going for a few weeks, you can do a lot of things,” he told “CBS Mornings”.

Pharmaceutical companies are already adjusting their existing COVID-19 vaccines to better attack the omicron variant, but Fauci said Americans should make it a priority to get their first vaccines or a booster dose now, rather than wait for a new formulation. .

“I would strongly suggest that you get a boost now,” he said.

He added that based on what scientists learn about the omicron variant in the coming weeks, “we may not need” targeted boosters to contain this strain of the virus.

Biden said his administration “is sparing no effort to remove all obstacles to keep the American people safe,” including working with drugmakers on potential new boosters and specifically testing the new variant.

No omicron-specific vaccine could possibly start being produced for another two or three months, so getting boosters now is a “very important initial line of defense,” said Dr Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the vaccine manufacturer. Moderna, said Monday.

Burton said Moderna and other vaccine companies are testing existing COVID-19 vaccines to determine their effectiveness against the omicron variant.

“If we’re going to make a specific omicron variant, it’s going to take a few weeks, two to three months is probably what we’re looking at so we can really start manufacturing,” Burton told ABC.

Noting that the new variant, like the previous ones, appeared overseas in areas with low vaccination rates, Biden said it was both a moral imperative and in America’s best interests to speed up. global vaccinations. He noted that the United States has already donated more than 275 million doses – more than the rest of the world combined – and is on track to deliver more than 1.1 billion doses globally by September. 2022.

“Now we need the rest of the world to step up as well,” Biden said. “We can’t stop until the world is vaccinated.”