Biden declares Covid-19 pandemic over, despite hundreds dying daily in US

President also says US will 'get control of' nation's historic inflation rate

US President Joe Biden says the coronavirus pandemic in the US is over as questions mount over the nation's rising inflation. EPA
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US President Joe Biden says the Covid-19 pandemic in the US is finished, despite the country recording hundreds of deaths a day from the virus.

“The pandemic is over,” Mr Biden said in a wide-ranging interview televised on CBS on Sunday, when he also sought to reassure Americans about high levels of inflation.

“We still have a problem with Covid. We're still doing a lotta work on it. … but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks,” he said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show that opened on Wednesday, after a two-year absence.

Coronavirus-related fatalities have fallen significantly over the past year with the increased accessibility of vaccines and other medications.

But almost 400 Americans are dying every day from Covid-19, data from the Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention shows.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the White House on Monday, calling on Mr Biden's administration to declare long Covid a national emergency, start a public health education campaign on the disease and support people who are suffering from lingering symptoms.

Long Covid can involve constant fatigue, respiratory and heart problems and other symptoms for months or years after an initial Covid-19 infection, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Some who are suffering long Covid also say they deal with ME/CFS [myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome], which brings about extreme fatigue after physical or mental activity.

It is also leading to millions leaving the American workforce.

“We are sick and disabled with ME/CFS and long Covid," ” said Ben HsuBorger, of the ME Action Network, who has ME/CFS.

"But we are here today, putting our bodies on the line, to tell President Biden that the pandemic is not over, that millions of us are being disabled from post-viral disease and we need urgent action from our government."

Long Covid is recognised as a disability by the US Health and Human Services Department, and it is estimated that between 10 to 30 per cent of people infected with coronavirus may have it.

Mr Biden asked Congress for another $22.4 billion to prepare for a possible surge in cases this autumn.

His comments come as the Federal Reserve is geared to raise interest rates yet again, a sign of the central bank's overarching focus on battling inflation after spending much of the previous years providing support to the US economy in response to the pandemic.

The Fed has been taking aggressive action to tackle the nation's highest inflation rate in decades, raising interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point in back-to-back meetings.

The central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 75 basis points again when it meets this week.

Raising the interest rates would make borrowing costs — such as taking out a mortgage, car loan or business loan — more expensive, which the Fed hopes would slow down the economy.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said his goal was to achieve a “soft landing” by slowing down the economy without driving it into a recession.

“I'm telling the American people that we're gonna get control of inflation,” Mr Biden said in the 60 Minutes interview, noting that he has his hopes of a soft landing.

The president has repeatedly pointed to the labour market as an indicator of a strong economy, but those gains could be undone by the Fed's weakening of the economy.

And the central bank's soft-landing goal took a hit last week when a government report showed US inflation over the past year was at 8.3 per cent.

Inflation has taken a toll on Americans, as a majority now say that price increases have caused financial hardship for their households, a new Gallup poll showed.

While lower petrol prices have provided some good news for the president, less than one-third of voters approve his handling of the economy.

Mr Biden's approval rating still hovers around 40 per cent, an indicator of Democrats' chances to retain their Congressional majorities after the midterm elections in November.

Up for re-election in 2024, Mr Biden said it was “much too early” to make a firm determination if he would run again, opening the possibility that he may decide against it.

“Look, my intention as I said to begin with is that I would run again. But it's just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” he told CBS.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 12:02 AM
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