Coronavirus: Global situation

Biden to announce new Covid-19 steps ahead of UN meeting

WASHINGTON • US President Joe Biden will announce new steps to slow the spread of Covid-19 before the United Nations General Assembly meets, Surgeon-General Vivek Murthy said.

Dr Murthy did not specify what those steps would be. The next session of the General Assembly opens today; the first day of general debate will be next week.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Dr Murthy defended Mr Biden's efforts to expand vaccination in the US. "There will be more actions that we continue to work on, especially in the global front," he said.

Mr Biden last Thursday said he would require federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and mandate that large employers either require their workers to be vaccinated or regularly tested.

Mr Biden said the United States had donated 140 million vaccine doses to other countries.

"That's American leadership on a global stage, and that's just the beginning," he said.

Dr Murthy portrayed the Biden administration's new Covid-19 vaccine mandates as narrow directives that apply only to specific professions where the federal government "has legal authority to act" - a direct counter to Republican accusations of unconstitutional federal overreach.

Dr Murthy called the plan "ambitious and thoughtful" on the ABC programme This Week, saying: "These kinds of requirements actually work to improve our vaccination rates."

He said they were part of "a series of steps that have to be taken in order to protect our country from Covid-19, and help us get through this pandemic".

Asked if the new mandates would harden calls for civil disobedience and opposition to Covid-19 vaccinations, Dr Murthy said it was understandable that people were fatigued by the waves of viral illness and that some had lost patience with safety precautions.

But he pointed to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks last Saturday as a model of how the nation could unify around a crisis.

"This has been a long, difficult pandemic - I know it has generated a lot of anger and a lot of fatigue, a lot of impatience," he said.

"But what we cannot allow," he added, "is for this pandemic to turn us on each other. Our enemy is the virus. It is not one another."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Biden to announce new Covid-19 steps ahead of UN meeting'. Subscribe