U.S. President Biden calls for intellectual property protection waivers after Omicron discovery

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday called on nations expected to meet at the World Trade Organization next week to agree to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in the wake of the identification of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa.

However, the meeting he was referring to was later postponed after the new variant led to travel restrictions that would have prevented many participants from reaching Geneva.

"The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations," Biden said in a statement.

"This news today reiterates the importance of moving on this (waiving intellectual property protections) quickly."

The Biden administration faces fresh criticism over a failure to get vaccines to poorer countries while supplying free booster shots to Americans, after the new variant named Omicron was identified.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose, writing by Lucia Mutikani and Heather Timmons, editing by Chris Reese)