US Biden addresses nation on omicron variant as some travel bans to US take effect
'Counterproductive': Gottlieb Pans U.S. Travel Ban on African Countries Over Omicron Variant
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that "harsh travel restrictions" will affect efforts to control the spread of the new variant.Gottlieb wrote on Twitter that it is "good" that the world is taking Omicron seriously as it prepares to combat the new variant, but warned that imposing strict travel restrictions will backfire.
With the COVID-19 omicron variant sending shockwaves around the world, President Joe Biden addressed the nationas new travel restrictions to the U.S. took effect on Monday.
"While we have said that travel restrictions can slow the speed of omicron, it cannot prevent it. Here's what it does: It gives us time," Biden said in remarks from the White House. "It gives us time to take more actions. To move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get the vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster."
"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, and the best medicines, the best scientists and we're learning more every single day," Biden added.
Omicron Variant: Germany, Czech Republic Report Suspected Cases After U.K. Confirmation
Several countries, including the U.S., Japan and Israel, have announced travel restrictions to avoid the mass spread of the latest COVID variant.Germany's Hessian Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration said Saturday that an individual who traveled to Germany from South Africa is suspected to be infected with the Omicron variant.
The president announced Friday that starting this week, the U.S. will restrict travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Experts predict it's only a matter of time before the variant first detected in southern Africa is circulating in the U.S.
The omicron variant was first detected last week in Botswana and cases have since been confirmed in several countries including South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Japan and Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the variant as one of concern on Friday.
The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland
LONDON -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases. She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.” The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.
While Biden praised South Africa for its transparency in reporting the variant, he dismissed the idea that the travel ban on southern African countries will deter nations from reporting new cases.
"It is almost inevitable, at some point, that the strain is here in the United States," he added.
Biden said he does not anticipate lockdowns or shutdowns but wants to ramp up vaccinations and testing in the coming months.
In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday morning, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, argued omicron gives Americans more reason to get their COVID-19 booster shots -- or for getting the jab if they haven't been vaccinated already.
Scotland Officials Concerned Omicron Variant Has Community Spread as 6 Cases Confirmed
Countries throughout the world are taking action to prevent a proliferation of the variant as scientists are still working to determine the danger it poses. Some nations like Japan have decided to block any foreign visitors in an effort to stop the highly mutated variant from entering its borders even as cases began popping up around the globe, AP reported.For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.New cases in Portugal and Scotland might already point toward local spread of the variant outside of southern Africa.
"We just need to make sure that we know we have tools against the virus in general," Fauci said.
Fauci told Biden in a meeting on Sunday that it would likely take two weeks for a better picture of omicron's transmissibility and severity, according to a White House readout of the meeting. Fauci said on ABC's "This Week" that it will also take time to determine if the current COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the new variant.
"The pharmaceutical companies are preparing to make a specific booster for this, but we may not need that," Fauci said on "Good Morning America."
Biden said if the omicron variant prompts a need for a new vaccine, the White House is working with officials at Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans.
The president will address the public for the second time in the afternoon. Following a meeting with CEOs from different business sectors, Biden will also deliver remarks about the supply chain and inflation concerns.
The president continues to face low polling numbers and mounting political pressure heading into the holiday season with several crises converging, from the ongoing pandemic to supply chain woes and rising consumer prices.
ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.
These are the states where the omicron variant has been identified .
The new omicron coronavirus variant has been found in 12 U.S. states just three days days after the first case in the country was announced. The new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world. One day after Thanksgiving, the Wold Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting on the variant, which it has determined is a "variant ofThe new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world.