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New covid omicron variant ‘not a cause for panic,’ Biden says

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden sought to reassure Americans on Monday about the latest COVID-19 variant, describing it as “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

Biden did not announce any new travel restrictions or other federal actions during his brief remarks from the White House.

Instead, he urged Americans to get a booster shot to increase their immunity against COVID-19 — and to be patient while scientists gather more data on what exactly the new omicron variant will mean.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” Biden said. “We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”

The White House already had restricted travel from eight nations, including South Africa, which first identified the new variant.

Other countries also have restricted travel as cases involving the new variant have been detected in a growing number of countries, including Canada and parts of Europe.

So far, U.S. public health officials say they believe the current COVID-19 vaccines will provide protection against the new variant. But it likely will take several weeks to gather data on how the mutations in the new variant make it easier to transmit or cause more serious disease.

Biden said his administration will share the information it gathers “candidly and promptly.” He also said that top health officials are working with the three authorized vaccine manufacturers to ensure they are preparing in case they need to tweak their products to adapt to the variant.

The president also said he will be announcing on Thursday a detailed strategy for fighting the  COVID-19 pandemic throughout the winter, including more widespread vaccinations, boosters and testing.

“We have moved forward in the face of the delta variant,” Biden said, referencing the variant that caused a surge in infections over the summer. “And we move forward now in the face of the omicron variant as well.”

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