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Biden urges boost to virus fight

He marks 1 million U.S. deaths, says ‘pandemic isn’t over’ by ZEKE MILLER AND MARIA CHENG THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | May 13, 2022 at 3:52 a.m.
AP's Zeke Miller interviews White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, Thursday, May 12, 2022 on the White House complex in Washington. Speaking to the Associated Press, Jha said Americans' immune protection from the virus is waning and the virus is adapting to be more contagious, and that booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots. (AP Photo/Nathan Elgren)

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden appealed to world leaders at a covid-19 summit Thursday to reenergize a lagging international commitment to attacking the virus as he led the U.S. in marking the "tragic milestone" of 1 million deaths in America. He ordered flags lowered to half-staff and warned against complacency around the globe.

"This pandemic isn't over," Biden declared at the second global pandemic summit. He spoke solemnly of the once-unthinkable U.S. toll: "1 million empty chairs around the family dinner table."

The coronavirus has killed more than 999,000 people in the U.S. and at least 6.2 million people globally since it emerged in late 2019, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Other counts, including by the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, have the toll at 1 million.

"Today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, 1 million covid deaths," he said.

The president called on Congress to urgently provide billions of dollars more for testing, vaccines and treatments, something lawmakers have been unwilling to deliver so far.

That lack of funding -- Biden has requested an additional $22.5 billion in what he calls critically needed money -- is a U.S. reflection of faltering resolve that jeopardizes the global response to the pandemic, he says.

Eight months after he used the first covid-19 summit to announce an ambitious pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses to the world, the urgency of the U.S. and other nations to respond has waned.

Biden addressed the opening of the virtual summit Thursday morning with recorded remarks and made the case that tackling covid-19 "must remain an international priority."

"This summit is an opportunity to renew our efforts to keep our foot on the gas when it comes to getting this pandemic under control and preventing future health crises," Biden said.

The U.S. has shipped nearly 540 million vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and territories, according to the State Department -- far more than any other donor nation.

The leaders announced about $3 billion in new commitments to fight the virus, along with a host of new programs meant to boost access to vaccines and treatments around the world. But that was a far more modest outcome than at last year's meeting.

After the delivery of more than 1 billion vaccines to the developing world, the problem is no longer a lack of shots but of logistical support to get doses into arms. According to government data, more than 680 million donated vaccine doses have been left unused in developing countries because they were expiring and couldn't be administered quickly enough.

U.S. assistance to promote and facilitate vaccinations overseas dried up earlier this year, and Biden has requested about $5 billion for the effort through the rest of the year.

"We have tens of millions of unclaimed doses because countries lack the resources to build out their cold chains, which basically is the refrigeration systems, to fight disinformation and to hire vaccinators," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.

N. KOREA LOCKDOWN

North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged covid-19 outbreak after holding for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.





The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but the scale of transmissions inside North Korea wasn't immediately known.

A failure to slow infections could have serious consequences because its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated. Some experts say North Korea, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid.

The official Korean Central News Agency said tests of virus samples collected Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant.

In response, Kim called at a ruling party Politburo meeting for a thorough lockdown of cities and counties and said workplaces should be isolated by units to block the virus from spreading. He urged health workers to step up disinfection efforts at workplaces and homes and mobilize reserve medical supplies.

Kim said it was crucial to control transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible, while also easing inconveniences to the public caused by the virus controls. He insisted the country will overcome the outbreak because its government and people are "united as one."

Information for this article was contributed by Kim Tong-Hyung, Hyung-Jin Kim, Chris Megerian, Lee Jin-man, Ken Moritsugu, and Nick Perry of The Associated Press.

  photo  The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 12, 2022, as the Biden administration commemorates 1 million American lives lost due to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
 
 
  photo  The American flag flies at half-staff at the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 12, 2022, as the Biden administration commemorates 1 million American lives lost due to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
 
 
  photo  President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to O'Connor Farms, Wednesday, May 11, 2022, in Kankakee, Ill. Biden visited the farm to discuss food supply and prices as a result of Putin's invasion of Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
 
 
  photo  FILE - White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, April 26, 2022. Speaking to the Associated Press, Jha said Americans' immune protection from the virus is waning and the virus is adapting to be more contagious, and that booster doses for most people will be necessary — with the potential for enhanced protection from a new generation of shots. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, file)
 
 

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