White House unveils new Covid-19 road map to manage outbreaks

Biden administration vows to prepare for any new variant outbreaks without shutting down schools

US President Joe Biden went maskless during Tuesday night's State of the Union address after Congress dropped its mask mandate. Bloomberg

Top US health officials on Wednesday laid out a national blueprint to manage Covid-19 going forward, vowing to prepare for any new variant outbreaks without shutting down schools or businesses and calling for additional funding from Congress.

“This plan lays out the road map to help us fight Covid-19 in the future as we move America from crisis to a time when Covid-19 does not disrupt our daily lives and is something we prevent, protect against and treat,” the White House said, one day after President Joe Biden acknowledged the nation's fight against the coronavirus had entered a new phase.

“America must maintain the tools — vaccines, boosters, treatments, tests and masks — to protect against Covid-19 and dramatically decrease the risk of the most severe outcomes,” the updated National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan said.

“We must be prepared to respond to a new variant quickly and keep our schools and businesses open.”

The White House called on Congress to provide more funding to pay for Covid treatment and tests, among other efforts, saying many of the plan's initiatives cannot be executed without more investments.

While the plan does not mention a specific dollar amount, sources familiar with the matter said last month that the Biden administration was seeking another $30 billion from Congress.

The additional funding would help restock the nation's stockpile of tests, antiviral pills and masks for Americans; strengthen the nation's data collection and monitoring capabilities to detect emerging variants; and boost vaccine manufacturing capacity, among other needs, it said.

Mr Biden on Tuesday acknowledged that America must change tactics, with infections declining and various precautions easing two years after Covid-19 shut down large parts of the country. But he cautioned against complacency against the disease, which experts have said could still surge again with new variants.

“We never will just accept living with Covid-19, we'll continue to combat the virus, as we do other diseases,” Mr Biden said in his State of the Union speech to Congress.

More than 952,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19, data from Johns Hopkins University show.

Updated: March 02, 2022, 4:47 PM