Biden Calls Omicron a ‘Cause for Concern, Not a Cause for Panic'

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President Biden delivered remarks connected  the Omicron variant astatine  the White House connected  Monday.
Credit...Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Sheryl Gay Stolberg

  • Nov. 29, 2021Updated 12:29 p.m. ET

President Biden sought to reassure the federation connected Monday astir the worrisome caller Omicron variant of the coronavirus, telling Americans that his medication is already moving with vaccine manufacturers to modify vaccines and booster shots, should that beryllium necessary.

“This variant is simply a origin for concern, not a origin for panic,” the president said, adding, “I’m sparing nary effort, removing each roadblocks to support the American radical safe.”

Mr. Biden has already restricted question from 8 nations, including South Africa, from coming to the United States, a determination that experts said would bargain the United States clip successful determining however to respond. But it volition apt beryllium a week, perchance 2 weeks, earlier experts cognize much astir the caller variant. It has mutations that scientists fearfulness could marque it much infectious and little susceptible to vaccines — though grounds to enactment those fears has yet to beryllium established.

Despite important questions astir the variant itself, countries astir the satellite person rushed to support against its spread, with a cascade of borderline closures and question restrictions that recalled the earliest days of the pandemic. The variant has yet to beryllium detected successful the United States.

“We’re learning much astir this caller variant each azygous day,” helium said, “and arsenic we larn more, we’re going to stock that accusation with the American radical candidly and promptly.”

Mr. Biden was elected connected a committedness to bring the pandemic nether power — a task that is proving easier said than done. Viruses are by quality wily creatures, dedicated to ensuring their ain survival, and that is particularly existent of the microorganism that causes Covid-19. Just arsenic Mr. Biden was astir to state “independence from the virus” connected the July 4 holiday, the Delta variant swept crossed the United States, causing different question of hospitalizations and deaths.

Now determination is Omicron, discovered successful confederate Africa and designated by the World Health Organization on Friday arsenic a “variant of concern.”

Mr. Biden is trying to task an representation of calm, and to support the state from panicking, portion besides ensuring that Americans stay vigilant by getting vaccinated and taking different steps to forestall the dispersed of the coronavirus, including masking and societal distancing.

The emergence of the caller variant is besides stepping up unit connected Mr. Biden and his medication to bash much to stock vaccines with the remainder of the world, though determination are immoderate complicating factors.

South Africa, whose scientists detected the variant, has afloat vaccinated lone 24 percent of its population, according to information from the Our World successful Data task astatine the University of Oxford. It has a amended vaccination complaint than astir countries connected the continent, but has asked vaccine makers to halt sending doses; it is having occupation getting shots into arms, successful portion due to the fact that galore radical are hesitant to instrumentality it.

Some experts reason those vaccine inequities are the crushed for the emergence of the variant.

“This is precisely what experts person been predicting was going to hap — that the bonzer inequities and gaps betwixt debased income countries and precocious income countries creates this monolithic vulnerability and its going to proceed to make these unsafe variants,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a planetary wellness adept astatine the Center for Strategic and International Studies successful Washington. “That constituent is glaringly evident and it’s painful.”

Mr. Biden’s apical wellness advisers, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, spent overmuch of the vacation play consulting with their South African counterparts. The White House said that Mr. Biden met connected Sunday with members of his Covid effect team, including Dr. Fauci, the nation’s apical infectious illness expert.

With overmuch inactive chartless astir the Omicron variant, Dr. Fauci told the president that it would instrumentality astir 2 much weeks to larn much astir its transmissibility and severity, the White House said, but that “he continues to judge that existing vaccines are apt to supply a grade of extortion against terrible cases of Covid.”

Administration officials — including the president himself — are encouraging the nationalist to support vigilance and safeguard nationalist wellness done inoculations, masking indoors and distancing.

“We don’t cognize the level of severity of it; we don’t person capable accusation yet,” Dr. Fauci said successful an interrogation implicit the weekend, adding, “This is each the much crushed to get vaccinated.”

Appearing connected greeting speech shows connected Sunday, Dr. Francis Collins, manager of the National Institutes of Health, cautioned Americans that the emergence of Omicron and the uncertainty that surrounds it are reminders that the pandemic is acold from over.

“I know, America, you’re truly bushed astir proceeding those things, but the microorganism is not bushed of us,” helium said. “And it’s shape-shifting itself.”

“Please, Americans, if you’re 1 of those folks who’s benignant of waiting to see, this would beryllium a large clip to motion up, get your booster,” Dr. Collins said connected Fox. “Or if you haven’t been vaccinated already, get started.”

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