With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 emerging as a worldwide concern, President Joe Biden stood before the nation to address worries about the new strain on Monday. 

In a speech, Biden said that Omicron was a "cause for a concern, not a cause for panic" and promised to fight the new strain with science and "speed." The president added that his administration would release an updated strategy on how it will combat COVID-19 this coming winter later this week, but made it clear that he saw no need for either a new lockdown or restrictions at this time if more Americans opt to get vaccinated. 

"If people are vaccinated, there is no need for a lockdown," Biden said in response to a reporter's question on if lockdown options were on the table. 

The president said that more time was needed to understand the Omicron variant but that his administration is already working with representatives at drugmakers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to develop contingency plans for new vaccines and boosters "if needed." He added that he ordered federal regulators to make it easier to approve new COVID treatments without sacrificing safety.

Earlier on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" where he said Omicron's arrival in the U.S. is "inevitable."

Providing a hint into the administration's thinking prior to Biden's comments, Fauci insisted that there was no need yet for alarm because little was known about either the infectiousness of Omicron or how the existing COVID vaccines protect against the virus.

“We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work,” said Fauci, referring to vaccines and other public health measures like masks or social distancing that have been encouraged since the start of the pandemic.

When asked about the possibility of new restrictions, Fauci dismissed the idea as premature.

“Let’s not be talking about lockdowns," he said.

After the new variant was first identified in Southern Africa, several countries moved to restrict travel from the region, including the U.S. On Saturday, the Biden administration ordered air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other nations as a "precautionary measure" that would come into effect on Monday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 74.1% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to date. Children as young as 5 years of age are now allowed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and boosters became available for all adults as of Nov. 19. 

The administration has made its vaccination drive the central focus of its COVID-19 strategy, but it has run into snags as its employer mandate has been stalled in federal court while many Americans continue to resist vaccination. Meanwhile, the previous Delta variant has continued to push cases upwards as winter approaches.