President Joe Biden on Monday gave an address at the White House aimed at quelling fears over the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid-19.

Omicron was first identified by scientists in South Africa last week and has been detected in at least half a dozen other countries but not yet in the United States, although Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and Biden‘s chief medical adviser has said that the strain is probably already here.

Researchers fear that the numerous mutations to the pathogen’s spike proteins – of which there are at least 30 – may render it exceptionally virulent and able to evade the protections offered by vaccines and boosters. Whether Omicron causes more severe disease than Delta, for example, is the subject of ongoing study.

On Friday, the World Health Organization designated omicron as a “variant of concern,” its highest and most urgent classification.

Omicron is “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” the president said. “We’re throwing everything we have at this virus, tracking it from every angle. I’m sparing no effort, removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe.”

Biden is scheduled to visit the National Institutes of Health on Thursday where he said that he will lay out “a strategy for how we are going to fight Covid this winter, not with shutdowns or with lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more.”

The commander in chief also noted his administration’s pledge to donate a billion vaccine doses to countries that lack the infrastructure to efficiently inoculate their populations and called upon foreign leaders to commit to doing the same.

“Now we need the rest of the world to step as well,” he said.

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