Dhe flag over the White House flies at half-mast in the cold winter air, and hundreds of candles on the south side of the building commemorate the countless corona deaths in the United States. President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and her husband Douglas Emhoff bow to the victims. With their heads bowed they observe a minute’s silence on the south side of the White House, their hands clasped as if in prayer. Shortly afterwards, a military band played the song “Amazing Grace”.
“Today we mark a truly gloomy and heartbreaking milestone,” said Biden in a speech on Monday evening (local time) immediately before the memorial event. The United States has passed data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) of more than half a million corona deaths. “That’s more Americans who died in a year of the pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined,” Biden said. “That’s more lives taken from the virus than any other country in the world,” he said.
Flags at half mast
However, the president warned Americans not to be dulled by the “unimaginable” number of victims. “We have to resist becoming deaf to suffering. We have to fight against seeing every life as a statistic, ”demanded Biden. “We have to do this to honor the dead. Just as important is caring for the living, those who have been left behind, ”said Biden. Every corona death had family, friends and an “extraordinary life” that ended too early.
To commemorate the dead, Biden ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast across the country. This applies for five days at public buildings, military bases and the diplomatic missions of the American government abroad. In the House of Representatives, the deputies rose to a minute’s silence.
German ambassador to Washington, Emily Haber, said on Twitter that she had joined Biden and lit a candle. “500,000 is a difficult number to imagine. It helps (and hurts) to imagine a single soul, someone I knew, ”she wrote. “Rest in peace.”
The winter months of the pandemic were devastating in the United States. Since the beginning of January alone, more than 150,000 people have died after being infected with the coronavirus. The re are now 28.2 million confirmed infections in the country with around 330 million inhabitants.
Recently, however, there has been hope that the situation will improve soon. The number of new infections every day fell from more than 200,000 at the beginning of January to less than 70,000. And the vaccination campaign is also progressing: So far, 44 million people in the United States have received the first vaccination, around 19.4 million people have already received both vaccine doses, according to data from the CDC.
Biden has been putting massive pressure on the vaccination campaign since he took office a month ago. The United States will now receive around 600 million doses of vaccine from manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer / Biontech by the end of July, which would be sufficient for all adults in the country. According to some experts – if everything goes well and only a small proportion of Americans refuse to be vaccinated – the worst of the pandemic could be over by autumn.
“This country will laugh again, this country will have sunny days again. This country will experience joy again, ”said Biden confidently. “We’ll get through this, I promise you.” Biden did not give a specific point in time when he expected a return to a certain normalcy in the country. However, he was confident that the situation should improve significantly in the second half of the year. Biden stated, “We never gave up. We are America. We can and will do it. “
However, many experts warn that the spread of new variants could soon lead to an increase in new infections. The government is following with particular concern the spread of the variant discovered in Great Britain, which is considered to be significantly more contagious. According to the CDC, it could become the predominant variant of the virus by the end of March.
The United States is the worst hit country by the pandemic in absolute terms. In relation to the number of inhabitants, however, the number of deaths is higher in some European countries. In the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins data, around 152 people died per 100,000 population. In Belgium this figure is 192, in Great Britain 182, in Italy 158. In Germany, 82 people per 100,000 inhabitants died. In many countries, experts also assume a high number of unreported cases of infections and deaths.