The president spoke in an address to the public and to reporters about the US strategy to combat the new variant, which emerged last week.
The news comes after the United States instated a travel ban for non-citizens who are not permanent residents or family members of them who have been in South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe.
“It gives us time to take more actions, to move quicker to make sure people understand, you have to get your vaccine, you have to get the shot, you have to get the booster,” he said. The president also sought to reassure people not to be too alarmed.
“First, this variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said, noting how the United States had the best vaccine in the world, along with some of the best scientists. “We will fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion.”
Mr Biden said that the United States is in a better place than it was last year when a variant emerged and that deaths from the delta variant declined.
“Look, we’re going to fight and beat this new variant,” the president said. “We’re learning more about this variant every single day and as we learn more, we’re going to share that information candidly and promptly.
Mr Biden also said the emergence of omicron was all the more reason for Americans to receive their vaccine.
“I know you’re tired of hearing me say this – the best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot,” he said. “Most Americans are fully vaccinated but not yet boosted.”
The president said that updated vaccinations or boosters would be needed, the administration would accelerate their development and deployment and noted that Dr Anthony Fauci, his chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the current vaccines offer some level of protection.
The president said he did not expect travel restrictions to be “the new normal” going forward.
“I expect the new normal to be every one ends up getting vaccinated with booster shots so we reduce the number of people who aren’t protected to such a low degree that we’re not seeing the spread of these viruses,” he said.
Mr Biden said he would put forward a more detailed strategy to combat Covid-19 during the winter.
“Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing, and more,” he said. When pressed for a definitive answer, he said “yes, for now.”
“Because if people are vaccinated and wear a mask, there’s no need for a lockdown,” he said.