Medical &Health

Biden offers Covid-weary US hope for summer, but says ‘fight’ not over

President Joe Biden on Thursday

offered his Covid-weary nation a tantalizing glimpse of an almost normal July

4th, outlining in a speech how the United States can defeat the coronavirus

if people stay united on prevention measures and get vaccinated.

“This fight is far from over,” Biden said in his first televised primetime

address as president, marking 12 months since the coronavirus outbreak was

declared a pandemic.

Delivering an emotional tribute to the more than 530,000 Americans who have

died from Covid-19 over the last 12 months, Biden said “While it was

different for everyone, we all lost something: a collective suffering, a

collective sacrifice.”

But he raised hope that the country hardest hit by the global pandemic

could overcome the virus if Americans work together and follow health

experts’ guidelines on wearing masks and getting vaccinated.

“Just as we are emerging from a dark winter into a hopeful spring and

summer is not the time to not stick with the rules,” he said.

If Americans stay the course, they may be able to mark their cherished July

4th national holiday in somewhat normal circumstances, he said.

“If we do this together, by July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your

families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your

neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence

Day,” he said.

“That will make this Independence Day something truly special where we not

only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence

from this virus.”

The United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths, but it is now surging

ahead of European countries and Canada with vaccine production and

distribution.

Biden said his initial goal of one million vaccinations administered every

day was already being easily surpassed and he planned for the authorities to

be “maintaining, beating our current pace of two million shots a day.”

To reinforce that huge effort, Biden said he was ordering every state in

the country to remove priority group restrictions by May 1, thereby allowing

any adult regardless of age or other conditions to be vaccinated.

The Democrat’s bid to get the country back on its feet received a huge

boost this week when Congress passed his $1.9 trillion economic stimulus

package dubbed the American Rescue Plan.

Biden says this will give poorer families a “fighting chance” and help fire

up the engines of the world’s biggest economy, something the IMF said

Thursday could also help ignite global recovery.

The president said in his speech that the plan “meets the moment” and “if

it fails at any point, I will acknowledge that it failed — but it will not.”

“There is light and better days ahead,” he said.

– AstraZeneca woes –

Earlier Thursday, vaccination efforts elsewhere took a hit when several

countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s jab over blood clot fears,

prompting Europe’s medical agency to quickly reassure the public there were

no known health risks linked to it.

A year on, several countries are looking to ramp up vaccine rollouts as a

way forward. But Denmark, Norway and Iceland all suspended use of the

Oxford/AstraZeneca jab over the new concerns about side-effects.

Italy joined them, banning a batch of the vaccine as a precaution, even as

its medicines regulator said there was currently no established link with the

alleged side-effects.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a statement seeking to assuage

fears, and Britain called the jab “safe and effective.”

– EU approves new jab –

European Union countries are eager to speed up vaccine drives after a slow

start left the bloc behind the United States, Israel and Britain — leaders

in the race to immunize.

On Thursday, the EMA approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine,

which is stored at warmer temperatures than its competitors and is easier to

distribute.

“Authorities across the European Union will have another option to combat

the pandemic,” EMA chief Emer Cooke said in a statement.

Adding to the optimism, a real-world study in Israel showed the

Pfizer/BioNTech jabs to be 97 percent effective against symptomatic Covid

cases, higher than originally thought.

– ‘War footing’ –

Since first emerging in China at the end of 2019, the coronavirus has

infected more than 118 million people and killed more than 2.6 million

people, with few parts of the globe left untouched.

The WHO officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11 last year as

infection numbers were beginning to explode across Asia and Europe.

The only defenses to the contagious virus then appeared to be face masks

and stopping people from interacting.

The pandemic has subjected billions to anti-Covid restrictions and left the

global economy in tatters — an outcome unimaginable at the outset of the

crisis.

“We are on a war footing,” Corinne Krencker, the head of a hospital network

in eastern France told AFP on March 11 last year, as patient and death

numbers began to surge.

Today, more than 300 million vaccine doses have been administered in 140

countries, according to an AFP tally.

Now, governments have started to cautiously roll back measures put in place

over what turned out to be a deadly winter in many spots.

Greece hopes to reopen for tourists in mid-May, a government official said

Thursday. France said it would ease travel restrictions from seven countries

including Britain.

And the sports world — after a year of cancelled or mainly spectator-less

matches — also looked to a return to normal thanks to more jabs.

The International Olympic Committee said athletes at the Tokyo Games and

the 2022 Beijing Winter Games would be offered vaccines bought from China.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)