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The omicron variant is cause for concern — but not panic, Biden says

Anthony Fauci, (right) director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, speaks alongside President Joe Biden following a meeting of the COVID-19 response team at the White House on Nov. 29, 2021.
Anna Moneymaker
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Anthony Fauci, (right) director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, speaks alongside President Joe Biden following a meeting of the COVID-19 response team at the White House on Nov. 29, 2021.

President Biden said that while restrictions imposed on travelers from several nations in southern Africa would slow the variant's entry, the U.S. will eventually see cases.

Updated November 29, 2021 at 1:17 PM ET

President Joe Biden said Monday that while travel restrictions imposed on travelers from several southern African nations would slow the entry of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, "it cannot prevent it."

"Sooner or later, we're going to see cases," he said in an address to the American people.

Biden added: "This variant is a cause for concern — not a cause for panic."

He reiterated his plea for Americans to get vaccinated as a way to protect themselves against COVID-19.

"The best protection against this variant or any of the variants out there is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot," he said.

Biden said scientists didn't think that extra measures would be needed to fight the new variant, but he added that his administration was working with vaccine manufacturers to develop vaccines or boosters against omicron if needed.

He said he will also direct the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to use the fastest process available without cutting any corners for safety" to get such vaccines approved and on the market.

He said that science adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci believes the current vaccines provide at least some protection against severe disease.

The president dismissed the need for another lockdown to curb omicron's spread

The president's remarks came the same day his administration's new travel restrictions went into effect in response to the omicron variant.

"We're throwing everything we can at this virus," Biden said.

Biden said COVID-19 cannot be defeated until the rest of the world is vaccinated, and he urged countries that have abundant vaccines to supply them to those that do not.

"Delta variants, and now the omicron variant, all emerged elsewhere in the world. So we can't let up until the world is vaccinated," he said.

The president also dismissed the need for another lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

"If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there's no need for a lockdown," he said.

Asked whether he expects the spread and response to the new variant to be the "new normal," Biden said no and said that he expects the new normal to be "everyone ends up getting vaccinated" and with a booster shot, and to reduce the number of people who aren't protected to "such a low degree that we're not seeing the spread of these viruses."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.