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US virus deaths top WWII fatalities as Biden warns worst yet to come

Country records 405, 400 fatalities; President Biden warns worst yet to come as he launches initiatives to rein in pandemic

WASHINGTON : New US President Joe Biden warned the worst of the pandemic is still to come, as the number of American coronavirus deaths surpassed the country's troop fatalities in World War II.

A Johns Hopkins University tracker on Wednesday showed that 405,400 people have died from the disease, more than the 405,399 total US combat and non-combat deaths in WWII.

Mr Biden launched initiatives yesterday to rein in the pandemic, tackling his top priority on his first full day in the White House.

His administration plans a coordinated federal coronavirus response aimed at restoring trust in the government and focused on boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools and addressing inequalities thrown up by the disease.

"We can and will beat Covid-19. America deserves a response to the Covid-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data, and public health - not politics," the White House said in a statement outlining the administration's National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

Mr Biden was scheduled to sign a series of executive orders related to the pandemic, including requiring mask wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.

Opening a blitz of policy measures, Mr Biden signed 15 executive actions on Wednesday just hours after he was sworn into office, many aimed at sweeping away Mr Donald Trump's policies.

They included mandating masks on federal property and halting the withdrawal from the World Health Organisation, as well as issues such as rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending a travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.

Among the 10 new orders, Mr Biden will establish a Covid-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.

Mr Biden has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the vaccine during his first 100 days in office.

His plan aims to increase vaccinations by opening up eligibility for more people such as teachers and grocery clerks. - AFP, REUTERS

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