With the new and fearsome omicron variant already at home, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, has presented this Thursday a renewed pandemic strategy to continue in a tiring fight that has already lasted two years, since the coronavirus surprised the world at the end 2019 in Wuhan (China). The package of measures, which changes the strategy of the Biden Administration and emphasizes the importance of performing diagnostic tests to slow the spread of the virus, includes booster doses for adults of all ages, a commitment that women Insurers will reimburse the cost of tests carried out at home and the establishment of hundreds of vaccination sites for families, as well as new rules for international travelers. The main change for the latter implies that, compared to the previous requirement to present a negative test carried out in the 72 hours prior to the trip, it will now be mandatory that, whatever the vaccination status or country of origin, the test is carried out in the previous 24 hours.
“We are going to fight this variant using science and quickly, never with chaos and confusion. It is a plan designed so that we can finally, after so many months of confrontations and partisanship, fight together against the virus and work for economic recovery. It is our patriotic responsibility, “Biden said Thursday at the headquarters of the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, a Maryland town that serves as a suburb of Washington. The announcement, which avoids expanding vaccination mandates, measures that in recent months have met again and again with opposition from judges, comes the day after the first omicron case was detected in California in a patient not vaccinated who had arrived from South Africa. The second was in the news today: a resident of Minnesota, in the north of the country, who had been in New York.
What’s new about the strategy is that it somewhat contradicts the previous policy of the Biden Administration, which had come under fire for focusing too much on vaccination (and not so much on wearing masks and performing diagnostic tests) as main avenue to fight coronavirus. Biden’s announcement recognizes the importance of detection in winning that war. From now on, insurers are obliged to pay for tests that citizens take at home (until now they only paid for those performed in certain medical establishments). And those who do not have insurance will have places to collect free tests to take home.
The plan also expands the population eligible for a booster dose to all adults. “It has been shown that these doses not only increase the antibodies, but also reinforce them”, has sentenced Biden. According to their data, there are already 80,000 places from coast to coast where these additional punctures can be received, in places ranging from small pharmacies to large stores. The US president recalled that there is a tool available to citizens that allows them to find the closest place to be vaccinated by entering the zip code.
The last leg of the new strategy puts the accent on immunization of all ages, which is encouraged by the creation of “hundreds of centers” to which families can go as a whole. The group of children between 5 and 11 years is the last to join the plan.
Biden has also defended the decision to ship vaccines to other countries. “This new variant has once again shown that by protecting others we protect Americans. It is a global pandemic and we have to fight together, “he declared, before justifying his decision to close the borders with some African countries on Sunday, claiming that, although this does not prevent the virus from ending up knocking on the door of the house, it does” has given time ”to the authorities to prepare a response.
The president of the United States has congratulated himself that the country faces Christmas better prepared than a year ago at this time, with “72% of Americans” already immunized. And he has taken the opportunity to repeat the phrase with which he started his week, and that has made his fortune: “Ómicron is a cause for concern, but not for panic.”
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS América newsletter and receive all the informational keys of the current situation in the region
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.