Biden: Omicron Outbreak Will Not Send US 'Back to March 2020'
19:55 GMT 21.12.2021 (Updated: 21:14 GMT 19.10.2022)
US President Joe Biden told Americans in a nationwide address on Tuesday that the country was much better prepared for a new COVID-19 outbreak driven by the Omicron variant than the US was in March 2020, when the global pandemic began.
“We should all be concerned about Omicron, but not panicked," Biden said Tuesday, speaking from the White House.
“Covid has been a tough adversary, but we’ve shown that we’re tougher," he said, noting that vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the country's "resolve" were potent weapons.
The US president noted that the country has stockpiled enough gowns, masks, and ventilators to deal with the coming surge of hospitalizations, and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and US National Guard would be mobilized to help support testing, vaccination, and hospital centers, as well.
However, he deflected criticism over the shortages of COVID-19 tests
being reported across the country by noting Omicron had spread "more rapidly than anybody thought."
He encouraged Americans to get vaccinated, noting that while there will be some breakthrough cases, the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness from developing.
“Folks, the booster shots are free and widely available," Biden said, noting that both he and former US President Donald Trump had gotten their booster shots. "It may be one of the few things we agree on," he added.
He noted that even if people are fully vaccinated, they should still wear masks while indoors in public spaces as an additional layer of protection.
“If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned,” Biden said, adding that almost all of the 400,000 Americans who died from Covid over the last year were unvaccinated.
Speaking just days before the Christmas holiday, when some 109 million Americans are expected to travel to visit family, Biden noted that for those who are fully vaccinated, "you can enjoy the holiday season."
Cases of COVID-19 have exploded in the US in recent days, driven heavily by the Omicron variant, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday
had become the dominant strain the US just three weeks after the first case was detected in the country.
The variant was first detected just last month by South African scientists, prompting several nations to institute travel bans on flights from several southern African countries, which those nations decried as unfair. Biden told reporters on Tuesday that since Omicron is already so widespread in the US, his administration was considering dropping the travel ban.