President Joe Biden addressed concerns surrounding the latest Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus variant on Nov. 29, saying the U.S. is putting together a contingency plan in the event updated vaccines and boosters are needed.
Biden says the Omicron variant—first identified last week in South Africa—is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
“Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here in the United States. We’ll have to face this new threat just as we faced those that’ve come before it.”
He says that while his administration does not yet believe additional measures will be needed to combat Omicron, federal officials are working with the vaccine companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop a contingency plan for updated vaccines and boosters “if needed.”
“We will accelerate their development and deployment with every available tool.”
The president also says he will direct the CDC and FDA to approve any potential new vaccines as quickly as possible, “without cutting any corners for safety.”
According to the CDC’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, it will take approximately two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity, and other characteristics of the variant.
Last week, after the Omicron variant was named by the World Health Organization, the White House announced it would bar nearly all foreign nationals who had been in eight southern African nations within the past 14 days.
That ban went into effect at around 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 29.
The countries are South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.
Biden says the travel restrictions can slow the speed of Omicron, but cannot prevent it.
The president continues to urge Americans to wear masks indoors, to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus, and take booster shots as recommended by the CDC.
“[Travel restrictions] gives us time to take more actions. To move quicker, to make sure that people understand you have to get your vaccine, you have to get the shot, you have to get the booster.”
Fauci says he believes existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID.
Biden says lockdowns are off the table, for now, as much about this latest variant is still unknown.
“If people are vaccinated and wearing their mask, there’s no need to lockdown.”
The Omicron variant has been reported in Canada, the United Kingdom, many European Union countries, Israel, and others outside the African continent.