The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is going to spread more rapidly and the "only real protection is to get your shot," US President Joe Biden tells Americans.
President Joe Biden has 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 on Thursday, predicting "a winter of severe illness and death" for the unvaccinated.
Biden brought reporters in at the end of a meeting on the pandemic to send a message directly to Americans.
He stressed the importance of vaccinated people getting a booster and of those who have yet to be vaccinated receiving their first shot.
Shortly before, deputy White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre had suggested the administration did not intend to take specific restrictive measures for the moment and to focus instead on vaccination.
"The tools that we have, we know are working," she said, adding, "We're just going to continue pushing forward... to get Americans vaccinated and boosted."
Potential surge in infections
The US is bracing for a potential surge in infections due to more time spent indoors with colder weather and the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus that was first detected by South Africa.
It has reported over 51.3 million cases and more than 824,120 deaths since the beginning of the disease, according to Covid-19 tracker Worldometer, holding the top position in the list of countries with both cases and death toll.
US is currently averaging 1,150 Covid-19 deaths per day, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Even with vaccines widely and freely available, the country has lost more lives to the virus this year than in 2020 due to the more contagious Delta variant and people refusing to get inoculated against Covid-19.
Since the start of the year, over 450,000 people in the United States have died after contracting Covid-19, or 57 percent of all US deaths from the illness since the pandemic started.
The deaths this year were mostly in unvaccinated patients, health experts say.