Speaking at the White House, Biden again urged Americans to get fully vaccinated or, if they already have, to get booster shots.
“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day, and we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Biden said.
On Sunday, Canadian officials announced that the variant had been detected in two people who had recently been to Nigeria.
Biden also said that lockdowns and shutdowns were off the table for now, and that regular testing for passengers on airline flights was not being recommended. The administration on Friday unveiled new travel restrictions on a host of African countries following the discovery of the new variant.
Biden said that the “best protection against this new variant is getting fully vaccinated and getting the booster shot,” even as health officials determine how effective they are in preventing Omicron infections.
Booster shots are recommended for those 18 years and older who got fully vaccinated before June 1. Vaccines are recommended for those five and older.
“We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed,” said Biden, adding that they are working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to “develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters.”
Biden also credited South African officials for disclosing the new variant, but the administration’s travel bans have drawn some criticism as either an overreaction or for being ultimately ineffective in stopping its spread.
“This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said. Biden also said that additional travel restrictions are not on the table.
Biden plans to unveil a strategy for countering the new variant over the coming months.
“I expect this not to be the new normal,” Biden said. “I expect the new normal to be everyone ends up getting vaccinated with booster shots so we reduce the number of people to such a low degree that we are not seeing the spread of these viruses.”
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