The US reported its first case of the new strain of coronavirus spreading rapidly in the UK, when Joe Biden warned that the Trump administration’s rollout of the vaccine was “far behind”.
Colorado governor Jared Polis said on Tuesday that the coronavirus variant was found in a man in his 20s who had not traveled recently.
The development came just days after Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said he expected the new strain of coronavirus to be present in the US.
“There is much we don’t know about this new Covid-19 variant,” said Polis, “but scientists in the UK are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious.”
Mr Biden said the Trump administration’s response to Covid-19 faltered as the US was going through a “very difficult period” over the next few weeks and months – “perhaps the worst during this entire pandemic.”
“I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth,” said the President-elect in Wilmington, Delaware. “Things will get worse before they get better.”
Mr Biden said the Trump administration’s rollout of the vaccine was not progressing as fast as the administration had predicted.
“The Trump administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December,” Biden said. “With just a few days left in December, we’ve only vaccinated a few million so far. “
He added, “At the rate at which the vaccination program is now evolving, it will take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
Mr. Biden said US hospitals are “being stretched on their capacity” even before an expected spike in post-holiday hospital admissions, when many Americans chose to travel despite recommendations from health officials not to do so.
The president-elect said the country may not see an improvement in the pandemic until well into March, adding that it would be some time before the upcoming government’s Covid-19 response plan would “ produce visible results. ”
Once he took office on January 20, Mr. Biden said he intended to use the Defense Production Act to speed up vaccine production. He said his government would also launch a public awareness campaign to demonstrate the safety of the vaccines in minority communities where there was past hesitation about vaccines.
The incoming administration has set a goal to administer 100 million vaccinations within the first 100 days. Mr Biden said that for that purpose additional funding from Congress would be needed and distribution increased by as much as five to six times current levels.
“But remember,” he said, “even with that improvement, even if we increase the vaccination rate to 1 million shots a day, it will be months before most of the country is vaccinated.”