Joe Biden has warned that the fight to bring coronavirus under control in the US is a “wartime undertaking” – devoting much of his first full day in office to tackling the pandemic.
The new president signed 10 executive orders on Thursday that are designed to ramp up testing, tackle vaccine shortages, and increase mask wearing nationwide.
More than 406,000 people have died as a result of COVID-19 in the US, and more than 24.5 million cases have been confirmed – with 4,367 fatalities confirmed in the past 24 hours.
Mr Biden has described the rollout of vaccines in the US as a “dismal failure so far”, and vowed to expand vaccine manufacturing in the coming weeks.
He also made a personal plea to the American people – telling them that experts believe more than 50,000 lives could be saved if the public wear masks for the next 99 days.
In other developments on Thursday:
• Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious diseases expert, suggested that coronavirus cases may be about to hit a plateau in the country
• New figures showed that a variant of COVID-19 first detected in the UK has now spread to at least 20 states
• Mr Biden said the US will back a global plan to get vaccines to poorer countries
• The new administration announced it will reinstate entry bans on most non-American citizens who have recently been in Brazil, the UK, Ireland and most of Europe
• The president’s top adviser on the pandemic said the US will once again contribute funding to the World Health Organisation – reversing Donald Trump’s plans to pull out
• Authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii warned COVID vaccine supplies were running out – with New York City starting to cancel appointments
Mr Biden has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine during his first 100 days in office – and intends to open up eligibility to new groups including teachers and supermarket workers.
After being sidelined by Mr Trump, Dr Fauci returned to the White House briefing room on Thursday – adding that it was “liberating” to serve under a science-friendly administration.
He told reporters: “One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. Just say you don’t know the answer.”
Later today, Mr Biden will begin calls with foreign leaders – starting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
But Downing Street has said it is unable to confirm when Boris Johnson will be in contact with the US president for the first time since he entered the Oval Office.