Friday 3 December 2021

'Who's President? Fauci!' Biden makes bizarre joke as he unveils Omicron battle plan including push to help FDA with vaccines for kids under five and stricter travel restrictions - but no lockdowns or quarantine

 President Joe Biden unveiled his plan to slow the spread of the Omicron variant this winter on Wednesday with a bizarre joke about Dr. Fauci being the real president and a strategy involving more boosters and travel restrictions - but no lockdowns or shutdowns. 

'I've seen more Dr. Fauci than I have my wife, we kid each other,' Biden quipped at the top of his remarks. 'Look – who's president? Fauci!' he said – referencing a figure who has advised presidents for decades but also has become a lightning rod for Biden opponents. 

Biden flew to the National Institutes of Health to spell out new efforts to provide boosters, more testing, and vaccines to combat covid and the Omicron variant – and said he 'strongly' supports a review of getting jabs to children under the age of five. 

He also introduced stricter guidelines for international travelers - including a COVID test within 24 hours of their flight to the U.S. - extended mask mandates on public transport until March 2022, and said insurers would cover the cost of at-home tests for Americans.

His speech came an hour after the CDC confirmed a second case of the Omicron super-strain had been found in the US, this time in a vaccinated Minnesota man who attended an anime convention in New York last month. The first was detected in California on Wednesday.

The Omicron super variant is at least 2.4 times more likely to reinfect someone than the original strain, according to the first real-world data coming out of South Africa where it is fuelling a meteoric rise in infections.

Government researchers say there has been 35,670 reinfections since the beginning of the pandemic and the risk of reinfection fell to 0.7 during the Beta-fuelled second wave last winter and the third Delta surge this summer compared to the first wave.

South Africa has experienced a massive surge in Covid cases since the variant was first discovered, with the nation reporting 11,535 new cases on Thursday after averaging less than 500 new cases per day only two weeks ago.

The news of the variant's spread in the U.S. comes on the heels of a holiday party in Norway that is believed to be the largest Omicron variant outbreak to date, with at least 50 vaccinated attendees testing positive.

Biden has said the emergence of the new variant should not cause panic and insisted it will be beaten by more Americans getting boosters and vaccines and wearing masks indoors. 

Republicans in recent days have attacked Fauci for thinking he is 'The Science' after claiming any criticism of him is 'dangerous'.  

He also used his speech to attack the political conflict that has arisen with COVID, saying: 'This is a moment when we can put the divisiveness behind us, I hope'. 

President said Thursday he hopes his new coronavirus plan could 'put the divisiveness behind us,' as he called for more testing, urged booster shots, and new testing requirements for international travelers. He joked that Dr. Anthony Fauci was president

President said Thursday he hopes his new coronavirus plan could 'put the divisiveness behind us,' as he called for more testing, urged booster shots, and new testing requirements for international travelers. He joked that Dr. Anthony Fauci was president

The man had attended in event at

He said the new regulations and proposals are 'ones that all Americans can rally behind and should unite us in the fight against COVID-19.'

Biden also emphasized that his plan 'doesn't include shutdowns or lockdowns,' but the White House has left the door open for more restrictions and European nations such as Germany and the UK have already reacted with more restrictions.

He did not mention other controversial proposals, such as imposing a quarantine on incoming international travelers – an idea that got floated publicly but was left out. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Thursday that 'nothing is off the table' when asked about vaccine requirements for domestic travel.

The president said parents came up to him at Wednesday night's White House Hanukkah ceremony. He said parents were asking when they can get shots for three three year olds, with the government only approving shots for those over five right now. 

'Is she going to be okay?' Biden said a parent asked about a daughter.

'Let me say this: I strongly support the independent scientific review of vaccine uses for children under five,' he said. But he also advised parents: 'The best step is to vaccinate your children. Get them vaccinated.'

The administration also wants to push out more at-home tests – with Americans able to apply for reimbursement from their insurance companies.  

'This winter you’ll be able to test for free in the comfort of your home and have some peace of mind,' Biden said.

He said the feds would provide free tests for those who don't have insurance.  

And he defended efforts to push out U.S. produced machines to the world. We need to go to where it came from in the rest of the world,' he said, amid reports of the continued spread of Omicron in South Africa, which first announced its appearance last week.

Still, state health officials announced a second case in Minnesota Thursday that could indicate an earlier presence in the U.S, and it has turned up in a host of European countries.

The data out of South Africa is concerning. According to the country's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), 11,535 new Covid cases were recorded in the last 24 hours – a jump of 368 per cent on last Thursday when 2,465 new infections were registered.

Cases have been soaring in the country since Omicron emerged, which experts say appears to be more infectious than Delta and has mutations that may allow it to dodge vaccine protection.  

Biden also touted new 'surge response teams' who will go out to assist areas that become covid hotspots as the virus spreads. 'These teams work,' he said. 

Biden also touted new rules to 'strengthen the strengthen international travel rules for people coming to United States.' Those will require proof of a negative test 24-hours before departing for the U.S.

But the administration did not opt to require a test upon arrival, or a mandatory quarantine, as some nations require. 

Biden launched a review for vaccinating children under five as he ramps up booster shots as part of his winter COVID plan to tackle the Omicron variant. 

The president will address the nation Thursday afternoon where he will kick off an urgent campaign to get all Americans immunized so that the virus can be combated without more lockdowns.  

All inbound international U.S. passengers must get a test within 24 hours from departure, but the plan made no mention of a seven-day quarantine period for international arrivals. 

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