President says he is ‘frustrated’ with unvaccinated Americans as US cases hit 150,000 a dayJoe Biden orders millions of US workers to get Covid vaccine or face dismissal
Joe Biden stepped up his battle against coronavirus by ordering millions of workers to be vaccinated against the pandemic.
Vaccinations will be required for approximately 4 million federal workers and contractors and also an estimated 17 million healthcare staff.
Government employees will have 75 days to comply with the order, or face dismissal.
“A distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner,” the president said in a televised White House address during which he announced a new vaccination plan affecting some 100 million people.
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer,” he added, of the 80 million eligible Americans who have refused Covid shots.ADVERTISING
“We can and we will turn the tide on Covid-19,” he declared.
In a further move, the Department of Labor is drawing up rules which will require companies employing more than 100 people to ensure their staff are either vaccinated or tested every week.
With the pandemic running rampant, the administration is edging towards a national mandate.
Major entertainment venues – including sports stadia – are being urged to require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test before admitting spectators.
The administration will ramp up testing, with a number of major supermarkets offering kit at cost.
Fines for passengers on public transport who refuse to comply with mask mandates will be doubled.
It is estimated that 53 per cent of Americans have now been fully vaccinated.
But vaccine hesitancy and the delta variant has seen an alarming surge in coronavirus infections in recent months.
“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated,” Mr Biden said. “This is an epidemic of the unvaccinated.”
He added: “To make matters worse there are elected officials officials actively working actively to undermine the fight against Covid-19.”
Attacking those who he said had peddled misinformation, Mr Biden added: “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part.”
According to the latest statistics, the US is averaging 150,000 new cases a day, figures not seen since January. Deaths have increased by more than a third since late August.
Hospitals are once again being overwhelmed, especially in states with low vaccination rates, and there is mounting concern at the number of children being hospitalised.
It represents a toughening of Mr Biden’s approach, as he had previously given staff the option of frequent testing – as often as twice a week – as an alternative.
The White House press secretary said there will be limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons, with the mandate expected to be fully in force in about two and a half months.
“That gives people more than enough time, in our view, to start and complete their vaccination series,” she said.
Many major companies have already demanded staff show proof of vaccination before being admitted into their offices.
United Airlines has imposed a vaccine mandate on its staff, with those declining to comply being put on unpaid leave.
An AP-NORC poll conducted in August found 55 per cent of Americans in favour of requiring government workers to be fully vaccinated, compared with 21 per cent opposed.