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Watch Live: Biden provides update on Omicron variant amid global effort to contain spread

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Washington — President Biden will provide an update Monday on the new coronavirus variant known as Omicron as scientists work to determine how transmissible the new strain is and how effective COVID-19 vaccines are at protecting against it. 

Mr. Biden’s remarks on the U.S. response to the Omicron variant follow a meeting the president held with his COVID-19 Response Team upon his arrival at the White House on Sunday. They were set to meet again Monday morning.

The World Health Organization deemed Omicron a “variant of concern” last week after South Africa reported the new strain November 24. Its discovery sent countries scrambling to mitigate the spread of the variant, and the Biden administration rolled out restrictions on air travel from eight nations in southern Africa, which go into effect Monday.

In addition to South Africa, the Omicron variant has been detected in at least 14 countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that no cases of the new strain have been identified in the U.S. so far, but Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, predicted Sunday in an interview with “Face the Nation” that the Omicron variant is “almost definitely” here already.

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Researchers in South Africa and around the world are working to determine whether the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other coronavirus strains, including the Delta variant, as well as whether it causes more severe disease than other variants. The World Health Organization said it is also working with partners to understand the impact of the Omicron variant on the effectiveness of vaccines. 

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Mr. Biden, told “CBS Mornings” that it will take “maybe a couple of weeks” to get more data about the variant’s transmissibility and severity. He said South African scientists report that the variant “appears to be spreading very readily” but it remains unclear whether those infected with Omicron develop more severe symptoms than those infected with other coronavirus strains.

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