President Joe Biden in an ABC News interview on Wednesday admitted that ‘nothing’s been good enough’ in fighting the Omicron variant (Picture: ABC News)
President Joe Biden has admitted he wishes he had thought to order 500million at-home Covid tests earlier, and that ‘nothing’s been good enough’ in terms of combating the surging coronavirus Omicron variant.
Biden acknowledged shortcomings in his administration’s efforts in a Wednesday night interview with ABC News, as he faced criticism for not having free coronavirus tests ready to send to Americans’ homes until after Christmas, in January.
World News Tonight anchor David Muir pressed Biden on whether he had failed the US.
‘We’re nearly two years into this pandemic, you’re a year into the presidency. Empty shelves and no test kits in some places – three days before Christmas when it’s so important,’ Muir said in the sit-down. ‘Is that good enough?’
‘No, nothing’s been good enough,’ Biden replied.
Still, the president sought to point out where the country is versus a year ago.
‘But look, look where we are. When last Christmas, we were in a situation where we had significantly fewer vaccinated – people vaccinated, emergency rooms were filled. You had serious backups in hospitals that were causing great difficulties,’ Biden said.
‘We’re in a situation now where we have 200million people fully vaccinated. Two hundred million people fully vaccinated. And we have more than that who have had one shot, at least one shot. And they’re getting these booster shots as well.’
Muir zeroed in on why coronavirus tests are not available before Christmas and family gatherings, as Omicron has now reached all 50 states and become the dominant variant in the country.
‘Three days before Christmas, if you look out across the country, you see it everywhere, these long lines, people waiting for hours outside in the cold, just to get tested, to be reassured before they spend time with their family,’ Muir said. ‘If you go to the pharmacy, we hear this over and over again, empty shelves, no test kits. Is that a failure?’
Biden did not believe he was to blame for that.
‘I don’t think it’s a failure,’ the president said. ‘I think it’s – you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago.’
‘I wish I had thought about ordering’ the tests ‘two months ago,’ Biden told Muir.
As of Thursday, two days after Biden promised the tests, the White House had still not signed a contract to buy them or launched a website for Americans to order them.
Asked by a reporter on Thursday afternoon why the Biden administration has promised 500million tests next month without a contract even signed, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said they ‘have no concern about the contract being finalized’.
‘We’re just working to finalize the contracts. We just announced this two days ago. But there’s no – we don’t see any issue or any halt to getting that done and to finalizing that. That’s a natural part of the process,’ Psaki said.
Psaki pointed out that Covid-19 testing companies were laying employees off around the country and world due to low demand for the kits before the Delta variant.
‘What the president also did was use the Defense Production Act to invest $3billion to ensure we were upping the market so the market would have the capacity to produce more tests – and also, as you know, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved eight tests,’ Psaki said.
‘Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the capacity to do what we’re doing for January.’
Psaki added that the administration expects the first set of 500million tests in early January, and ‘the rest will come in the weeks to follow’.
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