G7 calls Omicron ‘biggest threat’ to global health, Biden warns of spread in US – FRANCE 24 English

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The G7 on Thursday called the Omicron variant the “biggest current threat to global public health”, saying its emergence meant it was “more important than ever” for countries to “closely cooperate”.
“Deeply concerned by the rise in cases, ministers agreed that these developments should be seen as the biggest current threat to global public health,” Britain, which is currently chair of the group, said in a statement.
“It is more important than ever to closely cooperate, and monitor as well as share data,” it added.
The G7 health ministers earlier held their final meeting hosted by Britain, which has seen spiralling case rates over recent days, registering record numbers on Thursday.
The ministers focussed on global access to diagnostics, genome sequencing, vaccines and therapeutics in a bid to combat its spread.
“They also agreed on the increasing importance of booster campaigns and regular testing alongside continued non-pharmaceutical measures,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden warned that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will start to spread much more rapidly in the United States and urged Americans to get vaccinated or boosted.
“The only real protection is to get your shot,” he said, predicting “a winter of severe illness and death” for the unvaccinated.
He spoke as the US is growing more and more nervous over the latest chapter of the pandemic. As of December 1, the average of new daily cases of infection was 86,000. On December 14, it had shot up to 117,000 – an increase of 35 percent.
Biden stressed the importance of vaccinated people getting a booster shot and of those who have yet to be vaccinated receiving their first jab.
The outbreak linked to the Omicron variant has spread globally, and more European nations are implementing travel restrictions.
The United States, the hardest-hit country in the world, is currently averaging 1,150 Covid-19 deaths per day, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   
Biden unveiled on December 2 a plan to ward off a steep rise in infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
But he stopped short of taking more restrictive measures, knowing the issue is very sensitive. Some Americans, like others across the globe, are tiring of pandemic-related changes to daily life, and Republicans regularly speak out against the idea of forcing people to get vaccinated or wear masks.
When the Omicron strain was identified weeks ago, the US halted travel from several southern African countries but did not introduce any other restrictions, and has not tightened health measures on domestic flights.
The country surpassed 800,000 Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
This year, around 450,000 people have died of Covid-19, most of them unvaccinated, even though effective and free vaccines became available in the spring.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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