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Washington: President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardising the nation’s economic recovery.
The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans.
US President Joe Biden getting firmer on vaccinations.Credit:AP
And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also signing an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
Biden was to announce the new requirements in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots that has raised doubts among the public over his handling of the pandemic.
Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the nation’s “independence” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the US is seeing about 300 per cent more new COVID-19 infections a day, about two-and-a-half times more hospitalisations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year.
Biden’s plans were previewed Thursday afternoon by White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other senior administration officials ahead of the speech.
After months of using promotions to drive the vaccination rate, Biden is taking a much firmer hand, as his aides blame people who have not yet received shots for the sharp rise in cases that is killing more than 1,000 people per day and imperilling a fragile economic rebound.
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