Coronavirus: United States

Biden set to ask federal workers to get vaccinated or face regular tests

People at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles, California, earlier this month. President Joe Biden, who was set to deliver remarks on Covid-19 at the White House yesterday, would not mandate vaccines for federal employees and those who decide
People at a Covid-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles, California, earlier this month. President Joe Biden, who was set to deliver remarks on Covid-19 at the White House yesterday, would not mandate vaccines for federal employees and those who decide against getting a vaccine would not be at risk of being fired, the source said.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • United States President Joe Biden will announce that all civilian federal workers would need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.

Mr Biden, who was set to deliver remarks on Covid-19 at the White House yesterday, would not mandate vaccines for federal employees and those who decide against getting a vaccine would not be at risk of being fired, the source said.

The US has about 2.18 million civilian employees and another 570,000 people work for the US Postal Service (USPS), according to data last year. It is not clear if Mr Biden plans to apply the requirement to the postal service or to contractors who work for the federal government.

Some states and New York City have announced similar requirements, said the source, who declined to be identified.

Numerous US agencies on Wednesday mandated masks at federal buildings in Covid-19 hot spots in line with instructions issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to an OMB e-mail seen by Reuters.

The Defence Department said late on Wednesday that the masking requirements would apply to the Pentagon.

The White House also said masks are required indoors in federal buildings for all employees and visitors, whether or not they are vaccinated, in those areas experiencing sharp increases in infections.

The federal government is racing to contain the pandemic in the hope of avoiding nationwide shutdowns, as the virulent Delta variant of the coronavirus blazes through parts of the US and immunisations lag.

Mr Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation, the nation's largest labour federation, told C-Span news network that the union supports vaccine mandates. "If you come back in and you are not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardised," he said on Tuesday.

The idea of a vaccine mandate is opposed by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU).

"While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent," the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Alphabet's Google have also said all US employees must get vaccinated to step into offices.

Apple has restored a mask requirement at most of its US retail stores, and so has Walt Disney Co, which is requiring masks to be worn indoors again at its Florida and California theme parks.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2021, with the headline 'Biden set to ask federal workers to get vaccinated or face regular tests'. Subscribe