Coronavirus: Biden says all US adults will be vaccine-eligible by May 1st

World wrap: UN hits out at vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding

US president Joe Biden offered Americans hope as he used his first speech since becoming president to announce his plan to make all adults coronavirus vaccine-eligible by May 1st.

The 78-year-old said he aimed to allow Americans to gather at least in small groups for their annual Fourth of July holiday and “make this Independence Day truly special”.

Mr Biden announced moves to speed vaccinations, including lifting eligibility qualifications, deploying an additional 4,000 active-duty troops to support vaccination efforts and allowing more people to deliver shots.

He is also directing more doses toward some 950 community health centers and up to 20,000 retail pharmacies, to make it easier for people to get vaccinated closer to their homes.


Speaking in the White House East Room, Mr Biden marked one year since the onset of the pandemic that has killed more than 530,000 Americans and disrupted the lives of countless more.

“While it was different for everyone, we all lost something,” he said, calling the past year “a collective suffering, a collective sacrifice.”

Earlier on Thursday, the president signed into law a $1.9 trillion (€1.6trillion) relief package that he said will help defeat the virus, nurse the economy back to health and deliver direct aid to Americans in need.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Mr Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.

Vaccine nationalism

Meanwhile the United Nations chief has hit out at the "many examples of vaccine nationalism and vaccine hoarding" that have undermined access for Covid-19 jabs to all people in the world.

Secretary-general Antonio Guterres said in a statement marking one year since the UN World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus pandemic that "the global vaccination campaign represents the greatest moral test of our times".

Ensuring that all people are vaccinated — as “many low-income countries have not yet received a single dose” — is essential to restart the global economy “and help the world move from locking down societies to locking down the virus,” he added.

Mr Guterres reiterated his call for Covid-19 vaccines to be seen as “a global public good”.

He said: “The world needs to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all, which means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world. That effort must start now.”

The secretary-general paid tribute to health workers and other essential workers who have kept societies running.

“I salute all those who have stood up to the deniers and disinformation, and have followed science and safety protocols. You have helped save lives,” he said.

Mr Guterres also commended “women, men and young people everywhere for adapting to work, learn and live in new ways”.

He said: “So many lives have been lost. Economies have been upended and societies left reeling. The most vulnerable have suffered the most. Those left behind are being left even further behind.”

Some 117 million people are confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus, and according to Johns Hopkins, more than 2.6 million people have died.

Mr Guterres said the United Nations will keep pressing for affordable vaccines available for everyone and a recovery that improves the economy.


Serbia will close down all non-essential shops, bars and restaurants this weekend as the Balkan country faces a surge in coronavirus infections.

The government-appointed crisis body said the measures will take effect on Friday evening and last until Monday.

Authorities will decide on Monday how to proceed, officials said.

The decision is expected to be formally endorsed by the government.

Serbia has recorded more than 4,000 new infections daily in the past week as doctors have warned that hospitals are rapidly filling up and that medical staff are exhausted after a year of the pandemic.

Senior health official Zoran Gojkovic says the government hopes that its vaccination programme will also get infections under control in the coming weeks.

He says new measures also include children in higher primary school grades switching to remote classes next week.

A wave of new infections is sweeping across the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, driven mainly by new virus variants that are more contagious.

Serbia has vaccinated more than 1.5 million of its seven million people with at least one shot from China’s Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Sputnik V or AstraZeneca, which is among the highest rates of inoculations in Europe. – AP