Biden Announces Steps to Combat Spread of Variants As New Cases Are Detected in Multiple States

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US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a winter campaign against Covid-19, with new testing requirements for travelers and an increase in vaccination efforts, as the new variant of Omicron threatens to revive the disease. pandemic.

The variant was first detected in South Africa last week and has since spread to dozens of countries around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the new strain poses a “very high” global risk and has urged governments to speed up vaccination of high-priority groups.

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04:40 Paris time: how a French laboratory is identifying cases of the new variant

On Thursday, France confirmed the first two cases of the variant on its mainland, adding to a previous case identified in the overseas territory of Reunion. With our colleagues from France 2, Jean-Emile Jammine discusses how a French laboratory is sequencing Covid-19 samples to identify cases of the new variant.

04:15 Paris time: Nepal to ban travelers from eight African countries, Hong Kong

Nepal will ban the entry of travelers who have been to eight African countries or Hong Kong, to curb the spread of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus, a government spokesman said on Friday.

The ban, which takes effect at midnight on Friday, covers people who have been to or in transit through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and Hong Kong.

Travelers who have been to these countries in the past three weeks will also not be able to enter Nepal, and all other international visitors already in transit must spend seven days at their own cost in hotel quarantine, the government said in a statement.

“Nepalese citizens are discouraged from non-essential foreign travel for fear of the new variant,” Interior Ministry spokesman Phanindra Pokharel told Reuters.

Government employees and delegates to international conferences must obtain prior permission for their visits.

03:55 Paris time: Biden announces measures to combat the Omicron variant as new cases are detected in New York, Hawaii

Urging the nation, particularly his political rivals, to rally behind the strategy, Biden revealed a series of actions designed to crush Covid-19 in the coming months, as the latest variant of Omicron spreads across the country. world.

Ten cases of the new strain have been confirmed in the United States so far, including five in New York announced Thursday night by State Governor Kathy Hochul, one in the Pacific island state of Hawaii and a second case in California.

The Hawaii case and one from Minnesota involved residents with no recent international travel history, indicating that tension is already circulating within the country.

“This is a case of community spread. The individual has no travel history, ”the Hawaii Department of Health said in a statement regarding Omicron’s confirmed case on the island.

Biden’s updated actions include a requirement that all incoming international travelers be screened within one flight day. This will apply to all travelers, both US and foreign, regardless of vaccination status, a US official said.

For domestic travelers, Biden will announce that it will extend the mandate for masks on planes, trains and other public transportation until mid-March.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that testing and vaccine requirements could also eventually be added to domestic flights. “There is nothing off the table,” he said.

In addition to its public release, Biden wrote a column for Friday’s edition of the large-circulation national newspaper USA Today to quell “unease” in Americans about the new variant and Covid in general.

“We will defeat it with science and speed, not with chaos and confusion, as we did in the spring and again with the more powerful delta variant in the summer and fall,” the president wrote.

Biden and his aides have recently emphasized that there will be no return to mass shutdowns. But the White House also faces the challenge that many Americans are not receptive to Biden’s calls for collective action.

Despite increasingly creative attempts to encourage people to get vaccinated, about 40 percent of the country has yet to be fully vaccinated, and booster rates are lagging as well.

Biden said an increase in the scope of vaccines and booster shots was being launched, with a national campaign targeting beneficiaries of Medicare public health care. The government will partner with AARP, a large lobby group representing people 50 and older.

At the other end of the age scale, the Biden administration will try to ensure that schools do not return to mass closures.

“We are expanding our efforts to vaccinate children ages five and up,” Biden said. “For any parent concerned about the Omicron variant or the Delta variant, get your child vaccinated at one of the 35,000 locations in the country.”

In another reinforcement of existing policies, the White House will encourage the use of home test kits by announcing that health insurance must cover 100 percent of the cost.

For those without health insurance, there will be an increase in the availability of free kits.

The kits are currently selling for around $ 25, rather than being available for free or at nominal cost between peer-to-peer countries in Europe.

( Jowharwith AP, AFP, REUTERS)