US launches $1.9t global war plan against COVID-19

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UNITED States yesterday said it would resume its funding for the UN’s health agency as President Joe Biden shifts towards greater international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 while also launching a $1.9 trillion plan to tackle the pandemic at home.

  On his first day in the job, Biden confirmed he had reversed the decision of former president Donald Trump to quit the World Health Organisation (WHO).

  “Under trying circumstances, this organisation has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics,” top US scientist Anthony Fauci told a WHO meeting via video-link, confirming that the US would continue to pay its dues to the organisation.

  Biden was a fierce critic of Trump’s approach to tackling the virus in the US, which with more than 400,000 people dead is the world’s worst-hit nation.

  The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 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.

  “For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy,” said Jeff Zients, coordinator of the new COVID-19 task force. “As president Biden steps into office today, that all changes.”

  Virus cases are approaching 100 million globally, with more than two million deaths and many millions — from Beijing to Berlin — still living under lockdowns, curfews or other restrictions.

Europe has been particularly hard hit though the Russian capital Moscow announced on Thursday it was lifting many of its harshest restrictions as Mayor Sergei Sobyanin expressed “cautious optimism” over the current figures.

  More contagious coronavirus variants have travelled quickly around the globe, tempering optimism that mass vaccination campaigns would bring a swift end to the worst phase of the pandemic.

  And the WHO has repeatedly warned that richer countries are hogging the vaccine, a point underscored by data from Africa suggesting the second wave is proving far more deadly than the first.

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