Joe Biden was hit by a ticklish cough as he began his first ever press briefing as President of the United States. Biden, 78, suffered a frog in his throat as Thursday’s briefing on coronavirus began, which saw him warn the US death toll would hit 500,000 in February.
The president – who has had both doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine – coughed twice, and cleared his throat multiple times as he thanked servicemen and women for guarding his inauguration on Wednesday.
Biden, who was flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, said ‘Excuse me,’ while trying regain his voice, and managed to do shortly afterwards. The oldest president ever to take office then unveiled his ambitious Covid battle plan.
Later, the newly-inaugurated president showed a moment of exasperation when asked by a reporter if his plan to give 100million doses of vaccines in 100 days could be more ambitious.
Biden smiled, then answered: ‘When I announced it, you all said that it’s not possible. Come on. Give me a break, man. It’s a good start – 100 million.’
President Biden said: ‘Let me be very clear. Things are going to get worse before they get better. The death toll will likely top 500,000 next month.
‘We didn’t get into this mess overnight. It’s going to take months to turn around. We will get through this – help is on the way.’
Repeating his vow to inject 100million doses of coronavirus vaccine in the first 100 days of his administration, Biden said he and his team ‘will move heaven and Earth,’ to achieve the bold ambition.
Biden added: ‘400,000 Americans have died. That’s more than have died in all of World War Two… this is a wartime undertaking.’
The president plans to invoke the Defense Production Act – which allows the US government to take control of private manufacturing facilities – to boost vaccine production. Those shots will then be distributed at sports stadiums and large vanues across the country.
Biden also called on Americans to wear masks, saying that doing so was a ‘patriotic act’. He insisted mask wearing was key to tackling Covid, and said doing so between January and April would save more than 50,000 lives.
The new president also took a swipe at his predecessor Donald Trump’s manipulation of Covid information to try and save his own career, with Biden vowing he would always be honest.
He said his team – led by White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr Anthony Fauci would ‘work free from political interference, and they make decisions strictly based on science and health care alone.’
And President Biden also chastised Trump over his lack of ‘urgency.’ He signed 10 executive orders related to Covid, including one saying all travelers to the US must test negative for Covid, then quarantine on arrival.
The US has recorded more than 24million Covid infections, with over 406,000 dying as a result.
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