US President Joe Biden announced the purchase of a half-billion, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests and the mobilization of 1,000 military medical personnel to overburdened hospitals, as officials confront a new surge in Omicron infections.
The President unveiled the stepped-up measures in a speech from the White House as the nation – already fatigued by a pandemic that’s lasted nearly two years – faces rising COVID-19 cases.
Biden said that people who are “not fully vaccinated” have “good reason to be concerned” about the spread of the Omicron variant.
“If you’re unvaccinated, you’re at a high risk of getting sick. And if you get sick you’re likely to spread it to others, including friends and family. We should all be concerned about Omicron, but not panicked,” Biden said in White House remarks.
He said that unvaccinated people have a “significantly higher risk” of ending up in the hospital or dying from COVID-19.
“If you’re among the majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated and especially if you got the booster shot, the third shot… you have much, much less reason to worry. You have a high degree of protection against severe illness,” Biden said.
The US President further said that because the Omicron variant “spreads so easily” that even fully vaccinated individuals will get COVID-19. He added that they have seen breakthrough cases at the White House but these cases among the vaccinated “are highly unlikely to lead to serious illness.”
“Vaccinated people who get COVID may get ill. But they’re protected from severe illness and death. That’s why you should still remain vigilant,” he said.
He also urged the Americans to get their booster shots amid a surge in coronavirus cases. “Folks, the booster shots are free and widely available,” he said.
“I got my booster shot as soon as they were available. And just the other day, former President Trump announced he got his booster shot. Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on. People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us,” Biden stated.
A new variant of COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 25.
As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.
On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron’. The WHO has classified Omicron as a ‘variant of concern’.