Joe Biden says 'great day for America' as US announces vaccinated people can stop wearing masks

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Walensky - Shutterstock
Walensky - Shutterstock

President Joe Biden told Americans on Thursday that the lifting of the rule on indoor mask wearing was "a great day" in the fight against Covid-19 and that they could now "smile again."

"I think it's a great milestone, a great day," he said in a nationally televised address at the White House.

In often emotional remarks, Mr Biden declared a major victory in the more than year-long battle which has seen more than half a million Americans die.

The president implored those yet to be completely vaccinated to keep wearing masks for now.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Thursday said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings, heralding a major step back to normalcy in America.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said data now showed the "real world effectiveness of the vaccines."

Dr Walensky said: "Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

"This is an exciting and powerful moment. Covid vaccines work."

She said "If you are fully vaccinated you can start doing the things you stopped doing because of the pandemic.

"We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy. That moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated."

The CDC's revised guidance will still recommend vaccinated people still wear masks when they travel on planes, trains and buses, and in hospitals.

It marked a major step back toward pre-pandemic life in the US.

It could ease restrictions for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues.

The CDC will also no longer recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds.

The announcement came as the CDC and the Biden administration had faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people.

So far about 154 million Americans, more than 46 per cent of the population, have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Just two weeks ago the CDC had recommended that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors in all settings and outdoors in large crowds.

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