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Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday that she has been briefed about the COVID-19 omicron variant and insisted that the Biden administration did what “is necessary” in implementing travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries to prevent its spread, but made no mention of additional travel restrictions.
Harris’ comments came during a visit to a Christmas market in downtown D.C. in celebration of Small Business Saturday.
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“I have been briefed,” Harris told reporters. “As the president has said, we’re gonna take every precaution and that’s why we’ve taken the measures we have.”
Harris said she “can’t stress enough” how important it is for Americans to get their booster shots or their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. “I will say what I say every time because it remains true. They are safe, the vaccines are free, and they will save your life.”
Asked about any additional travel restrictions, Harris thought for a moment and said, “We’ll take it one step at a time, but as of now we’ve done what we believe is necessary.”
Harris was accompanied on her visit to the Christmas market by second gentleman Doug Emhoff. The two bought an assortment of items, including candles from Smell of Love Candles, an “I’m Speaking” calendar, spices, maps from Terratorie and treats from The Capital Candy Jar.
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On Friday, Biden restricted travel from South Africa and seven other countries starting Monday over concerns of the “heavily mutated” omicron variant, which has been identified in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.
The omicron variant, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials, has a large number of mutations, “some of which are concerning.”
In addition to the U.S., the European Union, United Kingdom and Israel have halted air travel to southern Africa in response to the new variant.