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 claimed there’s no need for a lockdown “for the time being,” adding that “if everyone are vaccinated and wearing their masks,” a lockdown would be unnecessary. There have been cases discovered in Canada, and the United States has placed travel restrictions on eight African countries.
Despite immunizations and Biden’s promise to “shut down” the virus, Covid claimed the lives of more Americans this year than previous.
The president said on Monday at the White House that the Omicron strain, which was first discovered in South Africa, will “very certainly” be identified in the United States “at some point.” Vaccine producers are developing “contingency plans” for additional vaccines “if needed,” he added.
The United States banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi late last week.
Travel from southern Africa has been banned in Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other countries.
The Omicron strain was detected in two patients who had just been to Nigeria, according to Canada, the US’s northern neighbor. On Monday, a third case was announced.
The ban, according to Biden, has given the US more time to research the new strain. While the World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a “variant of concern,” it is unclear if it is linked to increased transmission or an increased risk of vaccine evasion.
Critics pointed out that Biden accused former President Donald Trump of “hysterical xenophobia” when Trump restricted travel from China in January 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who may run for President in 2024, called the new flying limitations a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“We will not allow them lock you up in Florida,” he said. “We will not allow them to take your position. We will not allow them to harm your company. We will not allow your schools to close. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.”
“They will not be able to imprison you in Florida,” he stated. “They will not be able to take your place. We will not let them harm your business.
We will not permit the closure of your schools. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
While Biden once again urged Americans on Monday to wear masks, he has come under fire for flouting his own rules.
He was pictured without a mask covering his face over the Thanksgiving weekend where he stayed in Nantucket, Massachusetts – at one point inside a shop that had a sign on the window requiring customers to wear face coverings.
On Monday, First Lady Jill Biden was chastised online for appearing in the White House sans a mask, reading to a group of masked and socially isolated students.
A federal judge prevented the Biden administration from imposing a coronavirus vaccine obligation on thousands of healthcare workers in ten states earlier on Monday.
The judge concluded that government authorities had most likely exceeded their lawful authority.
A different rule mandating businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their staff are vaccinated was placed on hold earlier this month by another federal court.