Biden to update US COVID plan as omicron variant spreads

Coronavirus

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — President Biden is expected to give an update today on the omicron variant of COVID-19, the latest variant to raise scientists’ concern worldwide.

“I’m having a meeting with my medical team, as I get back to the White House,” Biden said in a brief tarmac interview. “I’ll have more to say.”

Now, Japan and Morocco have joined Israel in restricting all international travel, as more countries impose bans on travel from southern Africa.

While the variant was first sequenced and identified by South African scientists, its country of origin is unknown. Cases of the variant have popped up from Portugal to the Netherlands to Canada, and while there are no confirmed cases in the U.S. yet, top medical experts say its spread should serve as a wake-up call.

“This is a clarion call as far as I’m concerned,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “Let’s put aside all of these differences that we have and say, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get boosted.”

Fauci has indicated it will likely take two weeks to fully understand the threat omicron poses, though experts worry it could be more transmissible than any variant we’ve seen so far.

In South Africa, health officials like Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, urge calm and caution.

“There’s no reason for panicking as we don’t see severely ill patients,” Coetzee said.

But experts agree omicron is worth keeping a close eye on. As of Friday, the World Health Organization deems the strain a “variant of concern,” the same classification as the Delta variant that fueled surges worldwide.

Meanwhile, Moderna announced Sunday that it is investigating whether its current vaccine is effective against the omicron variant. If necessary, the drug manufacturer says, it could release a vaccine designed specifically to combat the variant by early 2022.

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