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Biden resumes WHO funding, launches $1.9 trillion virus plan

The United States says it will resume its funding of the UN’s health agency as President Joe Biden shifts towards greater international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, while also launching a $1.9 trillion plan to tackle the pandemic at home.

On his first day in the job, Biden dispatches his top expert Anthony Fauci to Switzerland and confirms he has reversed the decision of former president Donald Trump to quit the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics,” Fauci tells a WHO meeting in Geneva, confirming that the US would continue to pay its dues to the organization.

Biden was a fierce critic of Trump’s approach to tackling the virus in the US, which with more than 400,000 dead is the world’s worst-hit nation.

US President Joe Biden delivers his inauguration speech on January 20, 2021, at the US Capitol in Washington. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in the next 100 days, increase the use of masks and testing, expand the public health workforce and offer more emergency relief to those struggling with the restrictions.

“For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy,” says Jeff Zients, coordinator of the new COVID-19 task force. “As president Biden steps into office today, that all changes.”

Biden’s administration unveils a detailed COVID-19 roadmap Thursday to boost vaccinations and testing while centering scientific expertise, after the new US president warned during his inaugural speech the pandemic was entering its “deadliest period.”

Officials say Biden will immediately sign 10 executive orders and other directives to jumpstart the national strategy.

The plan has organized goals like restoring the trust of the American people, boosting the vaccination campaign, and mitigating viral spread through aggressive masking and testing, while expanding the public health workforce.

It also seeks to expand emergency relief; safely reopen schools, businesses and travel; protect the most vulnerable and advance racial equity; and restore US global leadership with future pandemic preparedness.

The administration is seeking $1.9 trillion from Congress for its plans, which includes $20 billion for vaccines and $50 billion for testing.

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