Omicron variant ‘not cause for panic’, says Biden
President Joe Biden has sought to reassure the country that his administration is in control of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, while urging people to get vaccinated and boosted before the holidays.
“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
The World Health Organization on Friday designated the Omicron strain of the Covid-19 virus first discovered in southern Africa as a “variant of concern”. The South African government reported the strain to the WHO on November 24, after seeing an increase in infections in recent weeks. The variant has a large number of mutations, which suggests that it could infect people faster and in different ways.
Cases of Omicron have since been reported in Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Belgium, Germany, Australia, Austria, Italy and the UK, among others.
Over the weekend, Biden instituted a travel ban on South Africa and seven other countries in the continent’s southern region. The ban went into effect on Monday.
The administration is not looking to impose any additional restrictions at this time.
“We needed time to give people a chance to say they’re getting vaccinated now before he does – he’s going to be moving around the world,” he said on Monday. “I think it’s almost inevitable that there will, at some point, be this tension here in the United States.”
Dr Anthony Fauci said the United States should know in two weeks whether the variant is resistant to existing vaccines, but stressed that people should be vaccinated.
“I don’t think there is a possibility that it could completely escape all vaccine protection,” he told ABC. This week. “It might decrease it a bit, but that’s the reason you’re increasing it.”
The United States already required international travelers to be vaccinated and test negative for covid-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.
âEven before Omicron comes in, we have a situation where we can test,â Fauci said Monday at Biden’s press conference.
Vaccine makers rush to make and test a vaccine specific to Omicron, with
) saying he could start clinical trials within 60 to 90 days.
The new variant caused the market to fall sharply during a cut-off trading session on Friday. The S&P 500 Index fell 2.2% for the week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2% – its worst trading day in more than a year. The Nasdaq Composite fell 3.5%.
Stocks rebounded on Monday, with the Dow Jones rising 344 points or 1%.
Write to Sabrina Escobar at [email protected]