Biden rules out using lockdowns to tackle Omicron threat

Joe Biden has ruled out flipside round of lockdowns in the US this winter despite the risk posed by the new Omicron variant, as the president pledged to tackle any new surge with increasingly vaccinations.

Describing Omicron as “a rationalization for concern, not a rationalization for panic”, Biden said that he would unveil a plan on Thursday for tackling the virus this winter “not with shutdowns and lockdowns, but with increasingly widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more”.

He added: “If people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there’s no need for lockdowns.”

The US president was speaking publicly for the first time since he shut lanugo travel from a range of southern African countries late last week tween fears that the heavily-mutated variant of coronavirus could evade vaccines.

While other countries such as Japan, Israel and Morocco have vetoed all foreign visitors, Biden said that the US was not yet planning to impose remoter travel restrictions.

“The stratum of the spread impacts on whether or not there is a need for any travel restrictions, but . . . I don’t visualize that at this point.”

The US has not yet confirmed a specimen of the new variant, but Biden predicted cases in the country would sally and he urged adults to get a booster vaccine to help protect versus it.

“You have to get your vaccine,” he said. “You have to get the shot, have to get a booster.”

“Sooner or later we are going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We will have to squatter this new threat just as we have faced those that have come before.”

The Omicron strain was first detected in southern Africa and was labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization last Friday, owing to its number of genetic mutations compared with previous strains. The White House spoken new travel restrictions for eight southern African countries, including South Africa, on the same day.

Anthony Fauci, the president’s senior medical adviser, said he believed that existing vaccines would confer some protection versus the new variant despite its variegated genetic make-up.

But Biden said the White House was “already working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters, if needed”.

“I will moreover uncontrived the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process misogynist — without wearing any corners for safety — to get such vaccines tried and on the market, if needed,” he added.

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