Biden vows virus action on ‘day one’ as Europe reels from second wave

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States (US) reported record new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row, as Joe Biden vowed to act against the pandemic on “day one” if he wins the presidential election in the world’s worst-hit nation.

Global infections have surged past 49 million and Europe has become the new pandemic epicentre in recent weeks, with more than 300,000 deaths – nearly a quarter of the global total.

More than 127,000 new infections were reported in the US on Friday, the third straight day of record cases, as votes from the bitterly fought presidential election were still being counted.

No winner has been declared but Biden promised late Friday that he would not waste any time in addressing the pandemic if he is victorious.

“I want everyone, everyone to know on day one we’re going to put our plan to control this virus into action,” the Democrat said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. PHOTO: AFP

The infection figures came as US President Donald Trump, who survived a bout of COVID-19 in October and has been widely criticised over his handling of the crisis, trailed his Democratic challenger in the ongoing vote count.

US cases are fast approaching 10 million, with more than 236,000 deaths, and the pandemic has hammered the world’s biggest economy, leaving millions jobless.

Trump has been a vocal opponent of lockdown measures, citing their impact on the economy, and has repeatedly clashed with his own government’s experts over coronavirus policy.

Unlike Biden, Trump held massive campaign rallies ahead of the November 3 vote, and had insisted that the US was “rounding the turn” on the virus despite the surges.

Several senior members of his administration have contracted the virus in recent weeks, with Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows the latest to test positive, US media said late on Friday.

The pandemic has been cited as one of the factors for the delay in US election results, with state authorities deluged with millions of ballots mailed by citizens not willing to risk infection by voting in person.

Across the Atlantic, Greece became the latest European nation to enter lockdown Saturday with the continent reeling from a second, relentless coronavirus wave.

Under the measures, which came into force at 6am, Greeks can only leave their homes if they make an official request via mobile phone and then receive authorisation. Only “essential shops” including supermarkets and pharmacies can stay open. The measures follow the imposition of restrictions in Italy, France, Ireland and Britain, while Switzerland is also being hit hard by the virus.

Poland imposed fresh measures yesterday, closing most stores in shopping centres, with some exceptions such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hair salons. The government has also closed cinemas, theatres, galleries and other cultural institutions and made hotels available for business travellers only.

European governments are also exploring mass testing as a way to curb the pandemic.