U.S. President Joe Biden says he has no immediate plans to impose additional travel bans to limit the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Biden says the U.S. strategy is to emphasize urging Americans to get vaccinated, or to get the newly available booster shot if they are eligible.
Effective today, the U.S. is barring foreign visitors from eight African countries where the number of cases of the heavily mutated variant is already high.
But Biden says that decision was less about countering the spread than it was about buying the U.S. valuable time in order to encourage wider vaccination.
The first two North American cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed over the weekend in Ottawa.
Biden says it’s “almost inevitable” that the variant will turn up on U.S. soil, which is why there’s no need right now for wider travel restrictions.
“The degree of the spread impacts on whether or not there is a need for any travel restriction,” he said after addressing the nation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
“I don’t anticipate that at this point, and we’ll see — we’ll see how that works.”
The president also called on other countries, although he didn’t single any out, to do their part to donate a share of their vaccine supply in order to help snuff out the pandemic around the world.
He says the U.S. has donated more vaccine doses for free than all the other countries of the world combined — more than 275 million doses to 110 countries.
“Now we need the rest of the world to step up as well,” he said, noting that recent variants of COVID-19 all originated outside the U.S.
“We can’t let up until the world is vaccinated.”
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