U.S. President Joe Biden announced a nine-part plan to combat COVID-19 during the winter on Thursday—the same day that health officials announced cases of the new omicron coronavirus variant had been detected in a total of five states.
The plan will require private insurance companies to cover the cost of at-home, rapid coronavirus tests. The Department of Health and Human Services, AARP, and Medicare officials will work together to increase vaccinations, especially among children.
The president is also deploying 60 winter emergency response teams to address coronavirus surges across the country. Biden extended the federal mask mandate for flights and public transportation to mid-March.
What is the latest international response to omicron? In Germany, where more than 1 percent of the population is currently infected with the coronavirus, officials announced a lockdown for the country’s unvaccinated population on Thursday.
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated for the coronavirus is banned from nonessential stores and public venues. The German parliament will also consider a general vaccine mandate.
Greece will impose monthly fines for all citizens over 60 who refuse COVID-19 vaccination. The U.K. has restored a public mask mandate along with testing and quarantine requirements for international travelers.
Health agencies say they need a few weeks to test the variant to determine the type of infection it causes and whether it is resistant to vaccines.
This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2021, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.