Trump administration’s handling of the Covid ‘even more dire than we thought’, says Biden

Joe Biden says the rate of vaccination had to be accelerated - AFP
Joe Biden says the rate of vaccination had to be accelerated - AFP

Joe Biden rounded on his predecessor’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, saying “it was even more dire than we thought”.

In his first major interview since becoming president, Mr Biden told CBS news anchor, Norah O’Donnell, the country faced a challenge to reach herd immunity before the end of the summer.

The US president said the rate of vaccination had to be accelerated to meet the target of 75 per cent of Americans getting the jab set by infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci.

Mr Biden said his administration had been led to believe there was far more vaccine available than turned out.

“So that’s why we’ve ramped up every way we can,” he added.

The new administration is using the Defence Production Act to get companies to boost production of vaccine and protective equipment.

In addition, the administration has reached an agreement for all 32 NFL stadia to be used as vaccination sites.

Mr Biden added that he was keen for schools to re-open, adding that his administration would release guidelines over the next few days over how this can be done.

“I think it’s time for schools to reopen safely. Safely,” he told CBS.

"You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked.”

In a wide-ranging interview, which was aired in the run-up to the Super Bowl, Mr Biden said he did not believe his predecessor should have access to intelligence briefings.

It had been custom and practice for these briefings to be made available if requested by former presidents.

Joe Biden and Jill Biden address the National Football League Super Bowl LV  - GARY BOGDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Joe Biden and Jill Biden address the National Football League Super Bowl LV - GARY BOGDON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“What value is giving him an intelligence briefing. What impact does he have at all other than the fact, he might slip and say something,” Mr Biden said.

Turning to foreign policy, Mr Biden ruled out ending sanctions against Iran while it continued enriching uranium.

One of the earliest acts of the Trump administration was to pull out of the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

Mr Biden, who said the ball was in Iran’s court, made clear that his administration would want to see movement from Tehran before considering lifting sanctions.

Turning to China, Mr Biden appeared to rule out a softening US policy towards China.

He added that he was yet to call the Chinese President Xi Jinping, a man he knows well.

He’s very bright. He’s very tough. He doesn’t have — and I don’t mean it as a criticism, just the reality — he doesn’t have a democratic, small D, bone in his body,” Mr Biden said.

“I’ve said to him all along that we need not have a conflict. But there’s going to be extreme competition.”