November 29 Omicron Covid-19 variant news

By Aditi Sangal, Helen Regan, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:03 a.m. ET, November 30, 2021
51 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:09 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Pfizer CEO thinks Covid-19 vaccine will work against Omicron variant, but could offer less protection  

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

A vial of the Pfizer vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus is displayed as medical workers get vaccinated at Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on December 20, 2020.
A vial of the Pfizer vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus is displayed as medical workers get vaccinated at Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, on December 20, 2020. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said on CNBC’s Squawkbox Monday that he thinks the company's vaccine will work against the Omicron variant, but it could offer less protection. 

“When it comes to the vaccine, remains to be seen. I don’t think that the result will be the vaccines don’t protect,” he said. “I think the results could be, which we don’t know yet, that the vaccines protect less.”

Bourla said that Pfizer has started working on a new vaccine if it’s needed. The company has made the first DNA template, the first part of the development process for a new vaccine. 

“We have made multiple times clear that we will be able to have a vaccine in less than 100 days,” he said, adding that they already did this twice for the Delta and Beta variants, both of which didn’t have to be used.

“We will build one at risk right now for Omicron that will be used only in case we need it, if we see that the current one doesn’t work,” he said.

 

1:21 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

New York City officials expect to find Omicron variant in city within coming days

From CNN’s Taylor Romine

The indoor mask advisory announced Monday recommending residents to wear masks in all indoor, public spaces in New York City is a reemphasizing of the recommendation made in August, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi clarified.

In August, city officials made a recommendation that everyone wear masks indoors for public settings and Monday’s advisory is intended to reemphasize this point as the city faces a new variant and colder weather, de Blasio said.

City officials said they are expecting to see the new variant in New York City within the coming days and will know very quickly when it has entered the population.  

De Blasio also noted that this decision was made in coordination with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams. Speaking briefly at the media briefing, Adams said that he intends to follow the same Covid-19 policies that are currently in place by the city when he assumes office.

When asked if this measure is an overreaction since not much is known about the intensity or spread of the Omicron variant, the mayor emphasized the need to be prepared ahead of the new threat. 

"Simply, the fact that we have another factor now in the equation makes me want to be very aggressive and proactive," de Blasio said. "But I think you are right to say we don't have all the facts yet, and we are going to hone our strategies as we get more and more information." 

The best way for people to protect themselves against the Omicron variant is by getting vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, city officials emphasized.

Currently, New York City has 88% of all adults vaccinated with at least one dose, 81% of 12 to 17-year-olds with one dose and 16% of 5 to 11-year-olds, according to city data.  

The NYC “Test and Trace Corps” is also aggressively reaching out to incoming international travelers, prompting them to get tested before and after traveling and providing PCR tests when requested, de Blasio said.

Remember: Much is still unknown about the transmissibility of the new variant and how effective vaccines will be in protecting Americans against it.

1:37 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Biden says he doesn't anticipate more travel bans "at this point"

From CNN's Jasmine Wright

With Dr. Anthony Fauci standing behind, U.S. President Joe Biden delivers an update on the Omicron variant at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2021
With Dr. Anthony Fauci standing behind, U.S. President Joe Biden delivers an update on the Omicron variant at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2021 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Biden said he did not anticipate putting additional travel restrictions into place "at this point," but did not rule the prospect out, as federal health officials brace for the first cases of the new variant to be detected in the US.

“The degree of the spread impacts whether or not there is a need for any travel restriction,” Biden told reporters Monday, after a growing number of countries in North America, Europe, Africa and other continents have reported Omicron cases.

“I don't anticipate that at this point. And we'll see. We’ll see how that works,” the President added.

Biden announced Friday the US would restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday in reaction to news of the seemingly fast-spreading variant. The ban went into effect on Monday.

Asked if it’s too late for travel restrictions to be effective given the spread and concern from officials that the variant could already be circulating in the US, Biden appeared to say that’s not the purpose of the travel ban.

The President said the point is “to give us time to get people to get protection. To be vaccinated and get the booster. That's the reason for it.”

12:33 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Biden: "It's almost inevitable" that Omicron will be in the US "at some point"

US President Joe Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Dr. Anothony Fauci, delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021.
US President Joe Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Dr. Anothony Fauci, delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

While addressing the travel restrictions on passengers from South Africa and other southern African countries, President Biden said "it's almost inevitable" that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus will arrive in the United States "at some point," but the measures give Americans some time to get vaccinated or boosted.

"We needed time to give people an opportunity to say 'get that vaccination now before it's going to move around the world," he said. "I think it's almost inevitable there will be, at some point, that strain here in the United States."

However, he added that he doesn't think the restrictions will act as a deterrent for other countries to be transparent about their reporting on the virus in the future.

12:23 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Lockdowns are off the table "for now," Biden says

President Biden was asked if he expects the emergence of new variants like omicron to become the new normal. He said he did not expect that if people continue to get vaccinated and boosters.

"I expect this not to be the new normal. I expect the new normal to be everyone ends up getting vaccinated with a booster shot so we've reduced the number of people protected to such a low degree we're not seeing the spread of the virus," Biden said in a speech at the White House.

The President was asked if lockdowns are off the table as a strategy to slow the potential spread of the omicron variant. Biden said that lockdowns are off the table "for now."

"If people are vaccinated and wear the mask, there's no need for lockdowns," Biden said.

Remember: Much is still unknown about the transmissibility of the new variant and how effective vaccines will be in protecting Americans against it.

12:20 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Biden's three messages about the new Omicron variant

US President Joe Biden, flanked by Dr. anthony Fauci (R), delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021.
US President Joe Biden, flanked by Dr. anthony Fauci (R), delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden underlined three messages in his address to Americans on the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus:

The variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.

"We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day," he said Monday. "We'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion."

The best protection against Omicron is the vaccine.

"I know you're tired of hearing me say this, the best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there, the ones we've been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot," he said.

If you're 18 years or older and got fully vaccinated before June 1, go get the booster shot today, he told Americans.

"They are free and they are available at 80,000 locations coast to coast," he added. "Do not wait. Go get your booster if it's time for you to do so."

He also emphasized that children who are 5 years and older should be vaccinated.

If vaccines need to be updated to fight Omicron, the US will act fast.

Scientists are currently racing to determine if the existing vaccines provide adequate protection against the Omicron variant. In the case they don't, Biden said the US will act fast to update its vaccine supplies.

"In the event, hopefully unlikely, that updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to this new variant, we will accelerate their development and deployment with every available tool," he said.

"We do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed," he added. "But so that we are prepared, if needed, my team is already working with officials at Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed."

"I will also direct the FDA and the CDC to use the fastest process available without cutting any corners for safety to get such vaccines approved and on the market if needed."

12:14 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Biden credits South African scientific community for quickly notifying the world about Omicron

President Biden opened his remarks on Monday about Omicron by crediting the "scientific community in South Africa" for its "transparency" in sharing information about the new variant with the rest of the world.

"To their credit, the scientific community in South Africa quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant," Biden said. "This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats, and that's exactly what we did."

He said that the "very day the World Health Organization identified the new variant" the administration "took immediate steps to restrict travel from countries in southern Africa."

Biden said that while those restrictions "can slow the speed of Omicron, it cannot prevent it."

The President said that the restrictions give the US time "to take more actions, to move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get your vaccine." 

"Sooner or later, we'll see cases of the new variant here in the United States," Biden said.

12:23 p.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Biden: Omicron variant is a cause for concern, not for panic

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021. 
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021.  (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden is giving an update about the new Omicron variant.

"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," Biden said. "We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, best scientists, and we're learning more every single day, and we'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed, not chaos and confusion."

While no cases of the new variant have been reported in the US so far, the Biden administration is attempting to limit the spread. New US restrictions on travel from South Africa and seven other countries took effect today, as his administration seeks to assure Americans that they are moving swiftly to try to contain the threat.

Remember: Much is still unknown about the transmissibility of the new variant and how effective vaccines will be in protecting Americans against it.

11:58 a.m. ET, November 29, 2021

Spain confirms its first case of Omicron variant

From CNN's Pau Mosquera

Health authorities in Madrid have diagnosed the first case of the Omicron variant in Spain, they said in a statement on Monday. 

“The Microbiology Service of the General Gregorio Maranon Public Hospital has sequenced and confirmed this case. It’s a 51-year-old man who returned from South Africa on November 28, with a layover in Amsterdam,” the statement read.

The man first tested positive for Covid-19 at Barajas airport in Madrid, where he underwent an antigen test after arrival.

“The patient has mild symptoms and has been placed in quarantine,” the Madrid health authorities added in their statement.