Biden declares war on coronavirus | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 23, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:17 AM, January 23, 2021

Biden declares war on coronavirus

Signs flurry of orders to contain crisis; more than a million vaccinated in India

New US president Joe Biden embarked on a "wartime undertaking" to battle the pandemic in the world's worst-hit country, while Germany's Covid-19 death toll passed 50,000 yesterday as it reeled from a second wave.

With infection rates spiralling, vaccine rollouts still in their infancy and the global death toll now past two million, the possibility of life returning to normal seems as far off as ever.

Germany survived the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed compared to its European neighbours, but is now reeling as new, more contagious variants of the virus run rampant and authorities warn of a tighter lockdown on the continent's biggest economy.

On his first day in office Thursday, Biden signed a flurry of executive orders, including mask-wearing and quarantining requirements, and reversed predecessor Donald Trump's decision to quit the World Health Organization (WHO).

The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days, increase the use of masks and testing, expand the public health workforce and offer more emergency relief to those struggling with the restrictions.

On Thursday alone the US registered 4,045 new deaths and more than 192,000 new cases.

The death toll in the world's worst-hit nation has now passed 406,000 -- more than its total combat and non-combat losses in WWII.

Biden has also restored top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci to a leading, visible advisory role in the White House, after Trump complained about the expert's warnings on Covid.

Fauci was back in the briefing room Thursday -- also pushing the message that public trust should be rebuilt.

"One of the things we're going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest if things go wrong," he said, noting he had discussed this with Biden minutes earlier.

"The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know... it is somewhat of a liberating feeling," Fauci said.

In Brazil, the second worst-hit country in terms of deaths, was standing to finally receive two million doses of the British AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine that were made in India.Indian  Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday sought to dispel fears and misconceptions over the efficacy and safety of Covid vaccines as the country vaccinated a million and a half of its health workers so far.

Modi's online interaction with vaccinators and vaccine recipients came in the  backdrop of Indian authorities grappling with hesitancy to take the  vaccination, with many health workers not turning up to get themselves  inoculated at their assigned centres.

Meanwhile, Myanmar yesterday received 1.5 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine supplied by India to inoculate 750,000 people, the first vaccine batch delivered to the Southeast Asian country as it fights one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the region.

India is donating millions of doses of vaccines to a string of countries in Asia, drawing praise from neighbours and pushing back against China's dominating presence in the region.

Shipments of AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest producer of vaccines, have already gone to the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

In China, Beijing launched mass Covid-19 testing in some areas yesterday and Shanghai was testing all hospital staff as China battles its worst outbreak of the disease since March, with families fretting over Lunar New Year reunion plans amid new curbs.

Mainland China reported a slight decline in new daily cases yesterday - 103 from 144 infections a day earlier, reports Reuters.Meanwhile, Australia's second most populous state of Victoria eased social gathering restrictions yesterday after recording 16 days without any new coronavirus infections in the community, doubling the number of people allowed to gather at home to 30.

The country has fared better than most developed economies in the pandemic through swift border closures, lockdowns, widespread testing and social distancing. It achieved a fifth day of zero cases in the community nationwide yesterday.


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