As of the morning after Thanksgiving, when President Biden was told on the rapid spread of a new Covid type, he was confronted with a difficult decision that he could not make on the basis of available facts.

The president listened in on a secret conference call from his holiday residence overlooking Nantucket Harbor as his health advisors informed him that the highly mutated virus was significantly more worrying than previous variations they had observed in recent months. It propagated twice as quickly as the common Delta type and has the potential to elude treatments and immunizations, according to the researchers.

Travel restrictions from southern Africa, where the coronavirus variant was discovered last week, would not prevent the coronavirus from making its way to the United States, according to the officials who spoke with Mr. Biden, despite the fact that the United Kingdom and several other countries had imposed similar restrictions. However, the steps may have the effect of slowing the spread.

According to White House officials and others involved with the debate, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s top medical advisor on the coronavirus, and other health officials recognised how little they understood about the danger during the 30-minute briefing, which took place on Monday. But they came to the conclusion that any possible advantage from a travel restriction outweighed the condemnation that it was expected to elicit from the nations impacted, according to the officials. Rather than being condemned for something you do, it is preferable to be criticised for something you do not.

The White House issued a statement in Mr. Biden’s name a few hours later, while he was eating lunch with his extended family at the Nantucket Tap Room, informing the public of a ban on travel from eight countries in southern Africa. The move drew widespread condemnation from leaders in the region — as well as from global health experts who said the ban amounted to punishing South Africa for being transparent about the virus.

For a nation that had been fighting the epidemic for over two years, the abrupt arrival of Omicron was a harsh reminder that it was time to start again. It also served to highlight the precarious situation in which the president finds himself as he attempts to react forcefully to yet another public health danger.

While the White House and public health officials scrambled on Thursday night and Friday morning, the incident served as a stark reminder that the United States remains vulnerable. A fresh wave of infections might jeopardise the country’s economic recovery, as well as its restoration to some degree of routine, as Mr. Biden and his party have already warned.

On Monday, the president attempted to reassure the people by stating that there would be no repeat to the types of statewide “shutdowns and lockdowns” that brought economic and social life to a grinding stop in 2017. According to him, the government will tackle the new variety “via more extensive vaccines, boosters, testing and other measures.”

Ms. Biden’s call for more vaccinations coincided with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changing its guidance on Monday, advising all adults to get a booster shot when they are eligible, six months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna doses or two months after their initial Johnson & Johnson doses if they are eligible. People over 50 and those living in long-term care homes have previously been encouraged to receive a booster injection, but the FDA did not go so far as to advise that everyone should get one.

In order to ensure that current tests could accurately detect the new variant, officials said scientists were working to ensure that current tests could accurately detect the new variant. The administration was also working with manufacturers to modify their vaccines and booster shots, should that prove necessary, Mr. Biden said.

While visiting the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, White House officials stated that President Barack Obama will discuss his specific plan for combating the coronavirus this winter with the president and other authorities in attendance.

That vow came at a time when some Republicans took advantage of the availability of another option to launch an assault upon the president. Biden “failed to shut down the virus as he had pledged,” according to a statement from the Republican National Committee. During his time as President Donald J. Trump’s White House physician, Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas said that the Omicron organisation was founded by leftists wanting to impose further Covid regulations.

Officials from the White House downplayed the political criticism. Authorities from numerous agencies convened a flurry of meetings, phone conversations with pharmaceutical firms, and urgent letters to health officials in other countries in reaction to the new version, according to Natalie Quillian, the Covid-19 response coordinator’s deputy.

It was discovered by South African scientists on Thursday afternoon, as numerous high-ranking officials from the United States were settling down to supper. Dr. David A. Kessler, the chief science officer for the government’s coronavirus response, reached out to a South African partnership just before midnight, and the partnership responded with a genomic sequencing report on the variant. Dr. David A. Kessler is the chief science officer for the government’s coronavirus response.

In the late hours of Thanksgiving Day, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were in communication with their colleagues in South Africa. Jeff Zients, the administration’s Covid-19 response coordinator, and others were on the phone for the most of the night, according to the president.


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