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Biden sparks backlash after playing down virus

By CHEN YINGQUN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-09-22 10:14

US President Joe Biden. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Joe Biden has set off howls of protest with remarks that "the pandemic is over", with critics pointing out that COVID-19 is still killing hundreds of people in the United States every day.

Biden made the contentious assertion in an interview with the CBS network's 60 Minutes program on Sunday.

"We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lotta work on it. But the pandemic is over," he said. "If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing."

The backlash generated by the president's comments was quick to appear.

On Monday, people suffering from long-term COVID-19 symptoms demonstrated outside the White House in Washington, reported news website The Hill.

During the protest, the demonstrators lay on the sidewalk holding signs, according to the report. The action was organized by the nonprofit MEAction Network, drawing people with a range of conditions resulting from the virus, including myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME/CFS.

"We are sick and disabled with ME/CFS and Long COVID 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," Ben HsuBorger, an advocacy director with MEAction, was quoted as saying.

According to MEAction, ME/CFS symptoms leave 75 percent of those with the disease unable to work and 25 percent bed-bound.

A report released in August by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, said that between 2 and 4 million working-age adults can't work due to the long-term debilitating effects of COVID-19. The cost of the lost wages has been put at $170 billion a year.

An opinion article, titled "No, President Biden, the pandemic is not over "and which ran in The Washington Post on Monday, said: "The pandemic is still raging-in the sense that a dangerous virus is infecting, sickening and killing people, mutating to survive and haunting the globe".

The commentary added that the reason Biden said otherwise is obvious: the congressional midterm elections are coming, and people feel an overwhelming sense of fatigue.

But "the pandemic is surely not over". The seven-day moving average of daily deaths in the US is nearly 400 and has plateaued at this terrible level since April. The average of new daily cases is 60,000, way higher than in the spring, it said.

A NBC News report on Monday said that disease experts predict that COVID-19 will remain among the top 10 causes of death in the US for the foreseeable future. The country is still averaging about 500 deaths from the disease every day, and COVID-19 will remain a leading cause of death in the United States indefinitely.

It was the third-leading cause of death in the US in 2020, after heart disease and cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a talk with the US Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday, US top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the US is not where it needs to be regarding the pandemic, according to a report by The Hill.

He raised concerns that only 67 percent of people in the country were vaccinated and "only one-half of those have received a single boost".

Ja'han Jones, a futurist and multimedia producer focused on culture and politics, wrote in an article on MSNBC on Tuesday said that Biden's remarks are "dangerous misinformation".

"Suggesting the lack of people taking COVID precautions indicates the end of the pandemic is a misstep by the president. And it was reckless for him to make that suggestion speaking to millions of Americans," he wrote.

As for the perspective in Europe, the European Medicines Agency said on Tuesday that despite falling COVID-19 cases in Europe, the pandemic is not over yet and countries should prepare for a new wave.

Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story.

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