US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been confirmed to have COVID-19, as the highly infectious Omicron variant drives a surge in cases across the United States.
Austin’s symptoms were “mild” and he will quarantine at home for the next five days, the Pentagon chief said in a statement.
Austin said he is fully vaccinated and boosted, which had “rendered the infection much more mild than it would otherwise have been”.
“The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce,” Austin said. “I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one.”
Austin said he was last in contact with President Joe Biden on December 21, more than a week before he started to experience symptoms and he tested negative for the virus that morning.
He will retain all authority and attend key meetings and discussions virtually “to the degree possible”, he said in the statement.
The Pentagon last week tightened restrictions at its headquarters over concern about Omicron, and the US military has imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Austin is the latest high-profile US official to test positive for the virus.
Several prominent members of Congress recently revealed they had been diagnosed with the virus, while in October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki were confirmed to have COVID-19.