Washington [US], December 17 (ANI): Amid the unabated spread of the Omicron variant globally, US President Joe Biden on Thursday warned about a winter of "severe illness and death" for unvaccinated Americans as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country.

"...I want to send a direct message to the American people: Due to the steps we've taken, Omicron has not yet spread as fast as it would've otherwise done and as is happening in Europe. But it's here now, and it's spreading, and it's going to increase," said Biden after meeting with members of his COVID-19 response team.

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"For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death -- if you're unvaccinated -- for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they'll soon overwhelm," he added.

Biden empathized on the need to get booster shots in guarding against the virus amid the spread of a new variant.

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"About 60 million people have one -- have been boosted. So, go get your shot today. Go get boosted if you've had your first two shots. If you haven't, go get your first shot. It's time. It's time. It's past time," he said.

Compared to the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was "undoubtedly worse" for the Americas, where infections and deaths tripled, the top UN health official there reported on Wednesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 98 million people in the Americas have developed COVID-19 and more than 2.3 million have died from the disease.Also Read | Omicron in US: First Death Due to New COVID-19 Variant Omicron, an Unvaccinated Man From Texas.

More than a third of all cases reported worldwide, and one in four deaths, have occurred in the region.

"And when we compare 2020 to 2021, this year was undoubtedly worse. We saw triple the number of COVID infections and deaths in this second year of the pandemic than we did in 2020," said Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). (ANI)

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