Biden outlines Covid-19 plan for US return to normal by July 4

In president's first national address he orders all states to open up vaccine eligibility by May 1

Joe Biden promises faster vaccine timetable in primetime address

Joe Biden promises faster vaccine timetable in primetime address
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US President Joe Biden, during his first national prime time address from the White House on Thursday night, marked the country's Covid-19 lockdown anniversary with updates about the next steps in fighting the pandemic.

"The only way to get our lives back, our economy back on track, is to beat the virus," he said.

Mr Biden used his speech to herald the $1.9 trillion relief bill he signed on Thursday and to order all states, tribes and US territories to make vaccines available to all adults by May 1 at the latest.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said that as of March 11, 10.2 per cent of the adult population of the US had been fully vaccinated and that 19.3 per cent had received at least one dose.

Most of the people vaccinated thus far were those at the highest risk of severe illness or hospital admission for the disease. About 70 per cent of US adults over 65 had received their first shot, Mr Biden said.

He hopes his actions will bring the country "closer to normal" by July 4, the nation's independence day.

"We will begin to mark our independence from this virus," Mr Biden said. "July 4 with your loved ones is the goal."

To meet that goal, Mr Biden reiterated that there will be enough vaccines for all adults in the US by the end of May.

He announced that his administration will set up a federal website to help people find the nearest available vaccination point.

He also said the federally run mass vaccination centres will more than double in the coming weeks, with an additional 4,000 active duty troops to aid vaccination efforts.

The Centres for Disease Control will also continue to issue updated guidance on what fully vaccinated people can or can not do in their workplace and places of worship as well as with family and friends.

Thursday was the anniversary of the date the World Health Organisation formally declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

"A year ago, we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked," Mr Biden said in his speech, criticising his predecessor, former president Donald Trump. "Denials for days, weeks and months that led to more deaths, more infections, more stress and more loneliness."

As of Thursday, the US had recorded about 30 million coronavirus cases, a huge jump from a little more than 1,000 cases a year ago.

The nation also surpassed 530,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University – the US leads the world in deaths from the disease.

The health crisis was brought into perspective for many Americans on March 11 last year as cities and states moved to enact stay-at-home orders, and schools and offices closed and shifted to remote work.

"While it was different for everyone, we all lost something," Mr Biden said, pointing to not only the loss of life but also the loss of things previously taken for granted, such as lifestyles, hugs and birthdays.

"Things we used to do that always filled us with joy became things we couldn't do and broke our hearts," he said.

The US is still feeling the repercussions of the widespread lockdowns and ensuing coronavirus-related restrictions that continue today while the economy reels from the effects of those measures.

Mr Biden earlier on Thursday signed his $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill into law, which will give financial support to states, businesses and pandemic-related efforts. It includes $1,400 stimulus cheques for most Americans.

He also addressed the rise in attacks against Asians and Asian Americans in the country, which are being fuelled by racism linked to the virus's origins in China.

Mr Trump regularly called the disease the "China virus".

"Vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated ... it's wrong, it's un-American and it must stop," Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden ended the speech with messages of unity tinged with caution.

The US continues to record about 60,000 new infections each day, along with the rise of more transmissible variants. He emphasised the need to keep practising Covid precautions and said that restrictions could be reinstated.

“There is hope and light and better days ahead. If we all do our part, this country will be vaccinated soon.”