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President Biden plans to mark 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the US with a candle lighting ceremony Monday, according to the White House.

The president will deliver a heartfelt speech at sundown at the White House’s Cross Hall to commemorate the grim death toll milestone, Biden’s press schedule said Sunday.

“The president will deliver remarks on the lives lost to COVID-19 in the Cross Hall,” the schedule states.

“[He will then] hold a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at sundown in the South Portico.”

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Biden will honor the lives lost to the illness — which on Sunday hovered just under 500,000, according to state health officials — alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden.

Biden and Harris also held a somber ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial a day before taking office last month to honor the 400,000 lives lost to the coronavirus.

“To heal, we must remember,” Biden said at the time.

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Coronavirus Vaccine

Dr. Fauci: Trump Let ‘Terrible Things’ Happen After Our COVID-19 Disagreements

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Dr. Anthony Fauci continues to open up about his experiences working under the Trump administration, revealing the moment he began to lose influence with former President Donald Trump.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Telegraph, the infectious disease specialist recalled a marked shift in his professional relationship with Trump in April or May of last year, once the president began to publicly side with anti-lockdown protesters and back states’ efforts to lift stay-at-home orders.

“My influence with [Trump] diminished when he decided to essentially act like there was no outbreak and focus on re-election and opening the economy,” Fauci, who is now serving as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, recalled Friday. “That’s when he said, “It’s going to go away, it’s magical, don’t worry about it.”’

Immediately thereafter, he added, “my direct influence on him was negligible. It became more conflictual than productive.”

Over the course of the past year, Fauci has enjoyed broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, and continues to be seen as a touchstone of scientific wisdom amid the ongoing pandemic.

But as the 2020 election drew to a close, Trump publicly lashed out at him and other medical experts even as the COVID-19 death toll continued to spike.

In an October phone call with campaign staffers, the former president deemed Fauci “a disaster.” Weeks later, he told supporters at a Florida rally he was considering firing Fauci “a little bit after” the election.

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In his interview with The Telegraph, Fauci didn’t touch on specific incidents but said having to correct the president’s numerous coronavirus falsehoods, often on live television, led to a gradual falling-out.

“When it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things — or allowed things to happen — that were terrible,” he said.

On the flip side, he offered faint praise for former Vice President Mike Pence, who “really tried his very best to address the outbreak.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Fauci ― who has worked alongside six presidents ― drew parallels between Trump’s handling of the coronavirus to the ways former President Ronald Reagan neglected to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Still, he said, they were “significant differences.”

Reagan “never did anything to obstruct what I was trying to do,” he recalled, while Trump “was putting as much stock in anecdotal things that turned out not to be true as he was in what scientists like myself were saying.”

“That caused unnecessary and uncomfortable conflict where I had to essentially correct what he was saying,” he added, “and put me at great odds with his people.”
(The Huffington Post)

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US President Biden pledges contribution of $4 billion to COVAX; announces ‘America is back’

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President of the United States Joe Biden, on Friday, announced that “America is back” addressing a global audience while virtually addressing the Munich Security Conference.

Stating that the transatlantic alliance was back, the US President remarked that the United States was determined to re-engage with Europe to earn back their position of trusted leadership.

In response to Biden’s remark, European Council President Charles Michel said, “Welcome back, America.”

Biden also was part of a virtual meeting of the Group of Seven industrialised nations (G7) earlier on Friday.

The meeting was attended by top leaders of the seven nations – United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Canada, Italy, and Germany.

The virtual meeting was chaired by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It was the first G7 meeting for US President Biden and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi as head of their countries.

“I participated in the first meeting of the G7 leaders, where I spoke about the dire need to coordinate multilateral action to address Covid-19, the global economic crisis, and the accelerating climate crisis, and so much else. Achieving these goals depend on a core strategic proposition and that is the United States must renew America’s enduring advantages so that we can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength – that is building back better our economic foundations, reclaiming our place in international institutions, lifting up our values at home, and speaking up to defend them around the world,” noted US President Biden in his address.

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At the G7 meeting, Biden pledged US dollars ($) 4 billion in US aid to the COVAX fund which will help buy coronarivus vaccines for global distribution. From this amount, an initial $2 billion will be released in 2021 while the additional $2 billion will be released over the next two years.

According to a statement issued by the G7 leaders, they have pledged an overall commitment of $7.5 billion to the fund, which is a United Nations coronavirus vaccination programme for poorer countries.

“We, the leaders of the Group of Seven, met today and resolved to work together to beat COVID-19 and build back better. Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet,” said the leaders jointly, adding, “with increased financial commitments of over $4 billion USD to ACT-A and COVAX, collective G7 support totals $7.5 billion.”

The European Union has doubled its own COVAX funding to one billion euros.
(The Himalayan Times)

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Joe Biden criticises Donald Trump for slow start to Covid-19 vaccine rollout

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President Joe Biden on Friday slammed Donald Trump for failing to secure enough Covid-19 shots as he toured a Michigan facility where Pfizer is manufacturing its vaccine.

“My predecessor — as my mother would say, God love him — failed to order enough vaccines,” Mr Biden said Friday, repeating criticism he’s made of Mr Trump. “Failed to mobilise the effort to administer the shots. Failed to set up vaccine centers.”

In remarks delivered at the facility, Mr Biden sought to reassure the public that the shots are safe and described efforts by his administration to increase supplies and vaccination sites. He also tried to rally support for his $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan that he proposed in response to the pandemic.

He said there are variables that will affect how long the virus will plague the US but that he believes “we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year. And, God willing, this Christmas will be different than last. But I can’t make that commitment to you.”

The plant, in Portage, just outside Kalamazoo in southwest Michigan, is Pfizer’s largest manufacturing facility. There, the company’s coronavirus vaccine is formulated and filled into vials before being shipped for distribution.

Mr Biden’s visit was just his second trip away from the East Coast since taking office last month, following a Tuesday appearance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a CNN town hall. Last week, he toured the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, getting a first-hand look at federal research on the virus.

Since taking office, Mr Biden has ordered an additional 100 million doses apiece of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, bringing the total to 600 million, which is enough for 300 million people. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses.

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The president said Tuesday that Pfizer agreed to speed up shipments after Mr Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to nationalise manufacturing in emergencies.

Despite the president’s criticism of Mr Trump, Mr Biden’s administration has made only modest changes to the previous administration’s vaccine plan. The Biden administration is invoking agreements reached under the Trump administration to expand the US supply.

The Trump administration last year purchased 200 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and obtained options for another 400 million. Mr Trump’s team also secured 200 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, with options for 300 million more.

On Friday, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla welcomed Mr Biden, calling him a “great ally” who helped obtain materials to expand capacity. Mr Bourla said his company would use more of its manufacturing capacity and work with new suppliers to step up production of the vaccine it developed with BioNTech SE.

Mr Biden has regularly touted his administration’s progress accelerating vaccinations, and has encouraged any American with the opportunity to get a shot.

“I can’t tell you a date when this crisis will end but I can tell you we’re doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later,” he said.
(The national news)

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