12 March 2021

Joe Biden tells America he’s aiming for Independence Day gatherings as he speeds up vaccination drive

12 March 2021

Joe Biden said he is hopeful speeding up US Covid-19 vaccination efforts will allow Americans to gather in small groups on the fourth of July to celebrate a “truly special” Independence Day.

He also said in his first primetime address since becoming president he would order the states to make all adults eligible for jabs by May 1, with eligibility currently based on age and health conditions.

Mr Biden announced moves to increase vaccinations, including lifting eligibility qualifications, deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and allowing more people to deliver shots.

He is also directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated closer to their homes.

Speaking in the White House East Room, Mr Biden marked one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” he said, calling the past year “a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”

He  predicted Americans could safely gather at least in small groups on July the fourth to “make this Independence Day truly special”.

But he also cautioned that this was a “goal” and attaining it depends on people’s cooperation in following public health guidelines and rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated as soon as eligible.

The president condemned the violence Asian Americans have endured since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, saying “it is wrong, it is un-American and it must stop”.

Earlier on Thursday, the president signed into law a 1.9 trillion dollar (£1.4 trillion) relief package that he said will help defeat the virus, nurse the economy back to health and deliver direct aid to Americans in need.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Mr Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.

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