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Biden orders mask-wearing, travel clampdown in new war on COVID

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WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Joe Biden on Thursday tightened mask-wearing rules and ordered quarantine for people flying into the United States, as he got to work tackling the coronavirus pandemic on his first full day in power.

Signing 10 executive orders in the White House, Biden told the nation that the COVID-19 death toll would likely rise from 400,000 to half a million next month — and that drastic action was needed.

“We’re in a national emergency. It’s time we treated it like one,” he said, adding that he wants to restore public trust in the wake of the divisive Donald Trump era.

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Scientists, he said, will “work free from political interference” under his administration, and he pledged: “We will level with you when we make a mistake.”

In addition to needing a negative virus test result before flying, travelers to the US will now need to quarantine upon arrival, Biden said. This toughened existing regulations under Trump.

Biden’s other orders included reenergizing a so-far-stumbling vaccination program and expanding requirements to wear masks on public transport.

Wearing masks “has become a partisan issue, unfortunately, but it’s a patriotic act,” Biden said, in a marked contrast to Trump, who for months gave mixed messages about whether or not to encourage the practice. US President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington.........

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