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Biden to address nation on omicron variant


(WASHINGTON) — With the COVID-19 omicron variant sending shockwaves around the world, President Joe Biden is set to address the nation surrounding the new variant following a morning briefing from his White House COVID-19 Response Team.

The president announced Friday that starting this week, the U.S. will restrict travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Experts predict it’s only a matter of time before the variant first detected in southern Africa is circulating in the U.S.

The omicron variant was first detected last week in Botswana and cases have since been confirmed in several countries including South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Japan and Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the variant as one of concern on Friday.

In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Monday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, argued omicron gives Americans more reason to get their COVID-19 booster shots — or for getting the jab if they haven’t been vaccinated already.

“We just need to make sure that we know we have tools against the virus in general,” Fauci said.

Fauci told Biden in a meeting on Sunday that it would likely take two weeks for a better picture of omicron’s transmissibility and severity, according to a White House readout of the meeting. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” that it will also take time to determine if the current COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the new variant.

“The pharmaceutical companies are preparing to make a specific booster for this, but we may not need that,” Fauci said on Good Morning America.

Biden will address the public twice Monday. Following a meeting with CEOs from different business sectors, Biden will also deliver remarks about the supply chain and inflation concerns.

The president continues to face low polling numbers and mounting political pressure heading into the holiday season with several crises converging, from the ongoing pandemic to supply chain woes and rising consumer prices.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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