President Joe Biden said Friday the United States must support worldwide attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 despite it having infected tens of millions “in order to beat COVID” at home.
“In the United States of America, we’re doing everything that needs to be done to take care of the American people within our borders,” Biden said during a news conference on Friday. “But look what’s happened. … We’re starting to make some real progress, and you find out there’s another strain.”
The federal government has to work to address the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus in other countries because the United States can’t “build a wall around America.”
“In order to beat COVID, we have to shut it down worldwide,” Biden added, adding that stricter travel requirements into the United States should be sufficient to deal with the newly emergent Omicron CCP virus variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a rule this week stipulating that fully vaccinated travelers need to show a negative COVID-19 test one day before their departure to the United States. Meanwhile, the United States also imposed travel curbs on eight southern African nations due to Omicron, which went into effect on Monday.
White House officials on Friday, including COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, again defended the move to impose travel restrictions on the African nations despite criticism from the World Health Organization, United Nations, and South Africa’s leadership.
“We are actively monitoring the new variant, addressing the questions that have been raised about transmissibility, severity, and vaccine effectiveness, and as we learn more about the variant over the coming days on all of these fronts, decisions on changes to travel policy will be based upon the advice, as they always are, of our health and medical experts,” Zients told reporters Friday.
Biden said that he is continuing “to rely on scientists and asking them whether or not we have to move beyond what we did yesterday … right now, they’re saying no.” The president was speaking on the November jobs report showing nonfarm payrolls increased by just 210,000 for the month, while the unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent.
Several days ago, Biden said that his plan to deal with the Omicron variant “doesn’t include shutdowns and lockdowns,” although it’s not yet clear if the new strain is especially more transmissible or deadly than the Delta variant. In the same breath, the president said that people who are eligible should receive a booster shot.
Much remains unknown about the Omicron variant, such as whether it is more contagious, makes people more seriously ill, and can thwart the vaccines. Officials said Friday that at least six cases have been reported in the United States, the latest being confirmed in Nebraska.
A top South African doctor who had treated Omicron patients said they presented unusual but “extremely mild” symptoms. There have been no confirmed Omicron-related deaths so far.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.