Omicron variant dominant in US as Biden to deliver Covid address
Publicado: 21/12/2021

Omicron variant dominant in US as Biden to deliver Covid address

Washington (AFP) -

US President Joe Biden is set to deliver an address on Covid-19 Tuesday after urging Americans to get vaccinated with the fast-spreading Omicron variant confirmed as the dominant strain in the hard-hit country.

His address comes as the World Health Organization called for vigilance over the holiday period with fresh virus surges reported globally.

The highly-mutated Omicron variant, now present in dozens of countries, appears to be more infectious and possibly have higher resistance to vaccines, despite early indications that it is not more severe than the Delta strain.

Its lightning fast dash around the globe has forced governments to reimpose restrictions ahead of the holidays, dampening hopes the worst of the pandemic is over.

Omicron now accounts for 73.2 percent of new US cases over the past week ending Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Biden took to Twitter late Monday to encourage people to get vaccinated and adopt safety measures like mask-wearing, warning that Omicron cases are on the rise.

'If you're an adult choosing to be unvaccinated, you will face an extremely difficult winter for your family and community,' he said.

The government will distribute 500 million free Covid tests and mobilize military medical personnel if needed, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

'We have the tools to get through this wave,' the official said, noting there are no plans to impose new restrictions.

With Biden set to deliver an address on the pandemic later Tuesday, the White House reported that a mid-level, fully-vaccinated and boosted staff member had tested positive for Covid-19 after spending 30 minutes in proximity to the president three days prior.

Biden has so far tested negative.

- 'Celebrate later' -

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for nations to redouble efforts to help end the pandemic, calling for new year events to be canceled because it was better to 'celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.'

'We have to focus now on ending this pandemic,' he said Monday.

The warning came as the European Union approved its fifth Covid-19 jab Monday -- from US firm Novavax -- with Europe already far ahead of other parts of the world with its rollout of vaccines and booster shots.

Authorization of the jab, which uses a more conventional technology than other Covid vaccines, has raised hopes that people worried about getting vaccinated might now come forward.

The other vaccines approved in the bloc are from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, and the EU has already signed a deal to buy up to 200 million doses of the two-shot Novavax vaccine.

'At a time where the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading... I am particularly pleased with today's authorization of the Novavax vaccine,' EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

Paris has already cancelled its new year celebrations, and Germany is expected to roll out tight restrictions on private parties and close nightclubs.

Spain's Catalonia region is considering a clampdown as well, while Morocco has announced a blanket ban on New Year's Eve celebrations.

London on Monday said it had canceled a New Year's Eve event in the central Trafalgar Square for 6,500 people.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out any further tightening of England's coronavirus rules over Christmas, while pledging to keep the situation 'under constant review.'

Queen Elizabeth II is nonetheless understood to have canceled plans to spend Christmas at her Sandringham estate and will instead take 'sensible precautions' and stay at Windsor Castle, according to British media.

The Netherlands has already imposed a Christmas lockdown, and von der Leyen has warned that the Omicron variant could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.


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