U.S. Has No Plans to Enforce Lockdowns Despite Omicron Variant

President Joe Biden in a statement on Monday morning called the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.” As it was first detected in South Africa, on Friday Biden announced that the U.S. will restrict travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. That said, the Omicron variant has been detected in European and Asian countries.

According to ABC News, Biden said he does not anticipate the U.S. reinstating any "shutdowns or lockdowns" but added that he wants to ramp up vaccinations and testing in the coming months. He did say, however, that it’s only a matter of time before the variant is detected in the U.S., and that steps such as wearing masks indoors and social distancing should be adhered to. Additionally, it will still be a couple of weeks before the U.S. or other global scientists learn more about the transmission or severity of Omicron.

The U.S., according to The New York Times, saw its largest spike in COVID-19 cases last January, following the holiday season and the first detected Delta variant in December 2020. Ahead of Thanksgiving, The Times reports, the U.S. was averaging about 95,000 new cases a day, an increase of about 25 percent over two weeks, largely by worsening conditions in the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

As our sister publication Travel Agent reported earlier on Monday, several countries—including Japan, Israel and Morocco—have reimposed travel restrictions while Australia is delaying its reopening as a result of the new strain. The U.S. Travel Association said in a statement regarding the U.S. closing to select African countries: "The U.S. Travel Association respectfully urges the Biden administration to revisit the reinstatement of country-specific entry bans in the near term.

“COVID variants are of concern, but closed borders have not prevented their presence in the United States while vaccinations have proven incredibly durable.”

This article originally appeared on www.travelagentcentral.com.

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