(EFE).- President Joe Biden addressed the nation during a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon to prepare the country for a winter wave of the Omicron coronavirus variant, announcing that the government will acquire 500 million free home Covid-19 test kits, deploy more healthcare personnel to hospitals and expand the number of vaccinations sites.

The moves are all part of the Biden administration’s strategy to contain the impact of the highly transmissible strain.

In a televised press briefing four days before Christmas, Biden discussed some of the questions that he believes Americans are asking as the number of people infected with the Omicron variant rises and the holidays approach.

Biden began his remarks by “acknowledging how tired, frustrated and worried I know you are. Tens of millions have gotten sick and we’ve all experienced upheaval in our lives. But while Covid has been a tough adversary, we’ve shown that we’re tougher.”

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He said that now the situation in the country is different than it was in March 2020, when the pandemic first hit the US.

Biden said that today “we’re prepared,” emphasizing that now “more than 200 million” Americans have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

But he noted that “We are preparing hospitals for what’s coming,” especially emphasizing the huge number of unvaccinated and now infected people who are turning to the healthcare system.

“That will mean hospitals are going to get extremely stressed both in terms of equipment and personnel to care for those who are sick,” the president said.

He noted that in March 2020 nobody was fully vaccinated against Covid, and he called on anyone who has not completed their vaccine regimen to do so and demanded that anyone disseminating “lies” and “disinformation” about the coronavirus or the vaccines to “stop now.”

Specifically, Biden focused his remarks on the measures he will implement starting now to strengthen his plan to combat the wave of Omicron infections that healthcare officials announced weeks ago will beset the US this winter.

The strategy will be reinforced with a series of measures to increase hospital support, increase the availability of free Covid testing and increase the number of vaccination sites.

Biden said that he had instructed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to prepare some 1,000 Armed Forces personnel, including military doctors, nurses and paramedics, to be deployed – if necessary – during the months of January and February.

In addition, federal medical personnel will be made available immediately to support healthcare workers around the country. To start with, six emergency response teams made up of more than 100 clinical professionals and paramedics will be deployed to the states of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Also, the president will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to allocate personnel for a national response coordination center and for teams of experts from that agency to evaluate hospitals’ needs in US states and territories.

Another move by the president will be to acquire more free Covid test kits, and he confirmed that the federal government will purchase 500 million tests that can be performed at home, with their delivery starting in January.

The purchase of the 500 million testing kits, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing, is the largest such buy to date, although she warned that the full amount of kits will not be available until January.

Psaki said that the goverment will not be sending a test kit to each US home but rather will send them to people who request them on the Web page that will be up and running in January. In this way, anyone who actually needs a free test kit and asks for it will be able to get one, she said.

The test kits that will be purchased will be from among the eight such kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition, Biden said that dozens of ambulances will be sent to New York, where one of the emergency testing sites will be set up with government funding to support the states’ response to Omicron.

Biden also said that the courts have reestablished the rule of “vaccination or test” that he imposed on companies with more than 100 employees, and he admitted that these measures, although unpopular, potentially save the lives of the people who are either vaccinated or tested and many others who might come in contact with them.

He also noted that most of the 400,000 people who have died this year from Covid-19 were unvaccinated, calling most of those deaths “avoidable.”

Biden said that “I believe it’s your patriotic duty” to get vaccinated, but he reassured Americans that if everyone that someone is intending to spend the holidays with has been vaccinated, “particularly if you’ve gotten your booster shot … and follow the precautions that we all know well, you should feel comfortable celebrating Christmas and the holidays as you plan. You’ve done the right thing.

Also on Tuesday, the US announced that it will donate $500 million to international organizations like the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to combat Covid-19.

These funds will raise to $19.6 billion the total US foreign aid provided so far to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

© 2021 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.


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