Biden says Omicron lockdowns not needed ‘for now’

Biden says Omicron lockdowns not needed 'for now'
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Daily US Times: US President Joe Biden has called the Omicron Covid variant a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” one day after it was detected in North America.

He said he saw no need for a lockdown “for now”, adding, “if people are vaccinated and wear their masks”.

Cases have been found in Canada, and the US has imposed travel bans on eight African countries.

Despite vaccines and Mr Biden’s vow to “shut down” the virus, more Americans died this year from Covid than last.

At the White House on Monday, the president called it “almost inevitable” that the Omicron strain, first reported by South Africa, will be found in the US “at some point”.

He added that vaccine companies are creating “contingency plans” for new vaccines “if needed”.

Late last week, the US announced a ban on flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Canada, the UK and the EU and other countries have also restricted travel from southern Africa.

Canada, the US neighbour to the north, said on Sunday that the Omicron strain had been discovered in two patients who had recently travelled to Nigeria. A third case was announced on Monday.

Mr Biden said that the ban had bought some time for the US to study the new strain. While the World Health Organization has deemed Omicron a “variant of concern”, it is still not clear whether it is associated with more transmission or more risk of evading vaccines.

Critics noted that Mr Biden accused former President Donald Trump of “hysterical xenophobia” after he limited travel from China in January 2020 as the coronavirus spread in the US.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and a possible 2024 White House candidate, dismissed the latest flight restrictions as a “knee-jerk reaction”.

“In Florida, we will not let them lock you down,” he said. “We will not let them take your job. We will not let them harm your businesses. We will not let them close your schools. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Florida, which has taken steps to ban Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates, currently has one of the lowest rates of coronavirus transmission out of all 50 states in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While Mr Biden once again urged Americans on Monday to wear masks, he has come under fire for flouting his own rules.

You may read: WHO warns of ‘high infection risk’ around globe from Omicron