Recovered Biden touts progress against COVID, encourages vaccines

US President Biden says many will still get COVID-19, but available vaccines, testing and treatment have made the coronavirus less deadly.

United States President Joe Biden has highlighted the progress he says his administration has made against COVID-19 and renewed his calls for Americans to get vaccinated and boosted after recovering from the coronavirus himself.

Shortly after the White House announced that the US president tested negative for COVID-19, which he had contracted last week, Biden said in a speech on Wednesday that the fight against the pandemic is making a “huge difference”.

But he warned that the virus is “still with us” amid the spread of the highly transmissible BA.5 Omicron subvariant.

“The reality is that BA.5 means many of us are still going to get COVID even if we take the precautions; that doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong,” Biden said.

He pointed to the declining rate of fatalities and hospitalisations from the virus, adding that people now have the “ability to protect ourselves from serious illness due to COVID”.

“COVID isn’t gone, but even with cases climbing in this country, COVID deaths are down nearly 90 percent [from] when I took office,” the US president said.

Biden underscored steps that his administration has taken to minimise the impact of the virus, including making testing, vaccination, treatment and “high-quality masks” more available.

He invoked his own “very mild” symptoms from the virus to encourage people to get vaccinated. He added that new treatments like Paxlovid, the anti-viral drug that he took after testing positive, also help reduce the risk of hospitalisation.

“You don’t need to be president to get these tools used for your defence. In fact, the same booster shots, the same at-home test, the same treatment that I got is available to you,” Biden said.

“You can live without fear by doing what I did – get boosted, get tested and get treatment.”

The White House had announced earlier on Wednesday that Biden tested negative for the virus with his symptoms “almost completely resolved”.

Biden drew a contrast between his experience with the virus and that of former President Donald Trump, who was hospitalised after getting COVID in 2020, saying that the progress on vaccination, testing and treatment has made the difference.

“Here’s the bottom line: my predecessor got COVID; he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered. When I got COVID, I worked upstairs in the White House… for the five-day period,” Biden said.

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