President Joe Biden said Monday he doesn’t expect any additional lockdowns in response to the Omicron variant that is putting the world on high alert once again.
“If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there’s no need for lockdowns,” Biden said.
Speaking to reporters at the White House with chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and Vice President Kamala Harris by his side, Biden stopped short of taking shutdowns off the table completely, and said that he’s not planning any “for now.”
The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa last week, resulting in a U.S. travel ban for travelers from eight southern African nations: South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The first few cases of of the new strain in North America were identified in Canada on Sunday.
“Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States,” Biden said Monday.
As the winter holidays approach, many people will be traveling to and from the U.S. as well as domestically, increasing the risk of spreading the variant. Although currently travelers to the U.S. need to be vaccinated and present a negative COVID test to enter the country, Biden said his advisers have not yet recommended requiring COVID tests for people flying domestically.
The president defended imposing travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other nations in southern Africa, saying they were put in place because of the significant number of cases in the affected countries. He added that the travel restrictions will give Americans a chance to get vaccinated before the strain arrives.
Biden also said he will be putting out a detailed strategy on Thursday that will outline how to fight COVID this winter, considering the new variant. Biden said the plan will avoid lockdowns, but will emphasize widespread vaccinations, boosters, and testing.
“If you are vaccinated but still worried about the new variant, get your booster,” Biden said. “If you aren’t vaccinated, go get that first shot.”
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