Nov 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Picture of Joe Biden
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

  • Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated and get booster shots if they are eligible.
  • Biden said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes the current vaccines "provide at least some protection against the new variant and the boosters strengthen that protection significantly."

The big picture: Biden said it is "hopefully unlikely" that updated vaccinations or boosters are required, but added that his administration is already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for updated versions "if needed."

  • "I will also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available without cutting any corners for safety to get such vaccines approved and on the market if needed."

What we know: Omicron was first detected in South Africa and appears to be more transmissible than other coronavirus variants, according to South African scientists and health officials.

  • The World Health Organization said it is still uncertain how transmissible the variant is, how effective vaccines are against it, or whether it causes more severe illnesses and a higher risk of death.

What we're watching: On Sunday, the Canadian government announced it had detected the first two Omicron cases in North America.

Catch up quick: Shortly after South African officials identified the new variant, the Biden administration announced new travel restrictions for South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

  • Officials said the restrictions are being implemented "out of an abundance of caution," adding that this step was recommended by U.S. government medical experts and the COVID-19 response team.
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