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'We're prepared' to tackle Omicron variant: Biden******
US President Joe Biden speaks about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the State Dining Room of the White House on December 21 in Washington, DC.。
President Joe Biden on Tuesday sought to reassure Americans about the country's ability to battle the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, saying it was "prepared" to fight what is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States.。
In a televised address, Biden formally announced a raft of new measures to combat the winter surge – including shipping half a billion at-home tests – but denied his administration had failed to adequately prepare for the fresh wave of cases.。
"We should all be concerned about Omicron but not panicked," he said from the White House.。
"This is not March of 2020," he continued. "Two hundred million people are fully vaccinated. We're prepared, we know more. We just have to stay focused."
Biden stressed the country's immunization campaign would help prevent severe cases among the 62 percent of the population now fully vaccinated – while scolding the unvaccinated for failing to uphold their "patriotic duty."
He also urged everyone to get a booster shot in order to increase their level of protection against the highly mutated Omicron strain.。
"Just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot," said Biden, calling the gesture "maybe one of the few things he and I agree on."
Beyond vaccines, the country's stockpile of medical equipment – including personal protective gear and ventilators – together with greater knowledge about how to tackle the virus without shutting down schools means America was in a far better position as compared with last year, he added.。
Biden announced his administration's plan to combat the surge, including deploying military personnel to hospitals, shipping supplies to hard-hit states and getting new free testing sites up and running.。
The federal government will mobilize 1,000 doctors, nurses and military medical personnel to be deployed across the country as needed in January and February.。
Washington is already sending additional emergency teams to the states of Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.。
One of the most eye-catching steps was the announcement that the government will ship 500 million at-home tests to Americans who seek them.。
This would bring the United States more in line with fellow rich countries where the tests are widely available for free or at low cost – but the measure would only begin sometime in January.。
'More rapidly than thought'
Biden's administration has come under fire for its failure to be ready for the winter surge, America's fifth wave.。
But getting the virus under control has proved difficult in a country where vaccination and mask-wearing have become divisive political issues, and federal mandates end up in protracted legal battles.。
Biden has attempted to impose vaccine mandates on private businesses and federal employees but has resorted in recent weeks to little more than publicly beseeching people to get their shots.。
At-home tests are currently in scarce supply across the nation while there are long lines at free testing sites in major cities – reminiscent of the pandemic's early days.。
Biden, however, said it was impossible to anticipate the rate of Omicron's spread.。
"What happened was the Omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought," he told a reporter.。
Asked about the travel ban that was imposed on several southern African nations soon after the existence of the Omicron variant was first reported, he said: "I'm considering reversing it, and I'm going to talk with my team in the next couple of days."
China advances into relay semis at ISU Short Track World Cup******
BEIJING, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese men's and women's relay teams both advanced into the semifinals as group leaders at the 2021-22 season ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating series at Beijing's Capital Gymnasium here on Friday.
In the women's 1,000m, Zhang Yuting and Han Yutong both made it to the quarterfinals, coming in second in their respective groups.
"The athletes are pretty much on the same level after the preliminary round, so our preparations had to be targeted," said Han. "The opponents are really close, so it's important to hold your position."
Another Chinese skater, Guo Yihan, squeezed into the entry list for the quarterfinals as one of the fastest third in the group. Guo admitted afterward that it was the plan.
"I was in group six. So I already knew that the fastest third would make it to the next round," said the 2017 ISU World Championship relay champion. "I decided to skate in a conservative way, no fouls, no mistakes."
In the men's 1,000m, Olympic champion Wu Dajing was penalized for causing contact with the opponent as he tried to overtake from the inside. Ren Ziwei and An Kai advanced to the quarterfinals to be held on Sunday.
Medal favorites Liu Shaolin Sandor and Liu Shaoang of Hungary, Hwang Dae-heon and Kwak Yoon-gy of South Korea all qualified for the quarterfinals.
Despite being penalized in the preliminaries, Sidney K Chu of Hong Kong, China, is still confident in securing an Olympic berth, saying, "my ability to qualify for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games was proved during the race."
"What I need to work on is rather the tactics, since the short track is really a matter of tactics," Chu said. "I hope to bring better performance in the remaining World Cup events."
Chu also praised the Olympic venue. "It's really nice. The pandemic preventing and control measures are all good," he added. "There's enough warm-up space for the athletes. I'm really jealous that the Chinese mainland has a stadium so awesome like this."
In the women's 3,000m relay, Fan Kexin, Han Yutong, Xu Chunyu and Zhang Yutong represented Team China, holding the leading position most of the time to finish first in the group with four minutes and 05.234 seconds. World record holder the Netherlands also qualified for the semifinals.
In the men's 5,000m relay, Team China consists of Li Wenlong, Ren Ziwei, Sun Long and Wu Dajing was in group three. China took the lead as soon as the race started but fell behind Canada on lap 32. Only two laps later, Yang managed to overtake from the inside to regain the lead and clocked 6:48.964 to finish first.
Saturday will see medals in the men's and women's 500m and 1,500m, while the men's and women's 1,000m and relay will be decided on Sunday. Enditem
Panama to play next home World Cup qualifier without fans******
PANAMA CITY, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Panama will play their next home World Cup qualifier against Jamaica behind closed doors after FIFA upheld a sanction for homophobic chants from fans.。
The Panamanian football federation, known as Fepafut, said the game's world governing body also ratified a fine of 50,000 Swiss francs (60,000 U.S. dollars) for the behavior of fans during World Cup qualifiers in September.。
Panama had succeeded in suspending the decision last month, pending the result of a second-instance hearing by the FIFA Appeal Committee.。
"Fepafut has a firm commitment to fair play and fight against all forms of discrimination or intolerance," the entity said in a statement. "Once again, fans are urged to support our national team while always maintaining these principles."
Panama will host Jamaica on January 30, three days after an away clash with Costa Rica. The triple-header of qualifiers also includes a visit to Mexico on February 2.。
Panama is currently fourth in the eight-team final stage of the North America, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) World Cup qualifying tournament.。
The top three teams will earn an automatic place in football's showpiece event in Qatar next year. The fourth-ranked side will advance to an intercontinental playoff. Enditem。