US President Joe Biden on Friday announced new coronavirus measures for 100 million federal workers and healthcare staff, about two-thirds of the American labour force.
In a bid to expand the number of vaccinated Americans and halt the spread of the Delta variant, the US president urged workers at large companies to get the vaccine or to face weekly testing.
"We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin," Biden said to unvaccinated Americans in his address from the White House. "And your refusal has cost all of us."
"My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine has FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approval. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot," Biden added.
Biden slammed vaccine-hesitant Americans for preventing the United States from overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner," he said in his televised address.
"The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or pancreatitis or cancer," he added, in regards to the 80 million eligible Americans who have refused coronavirus shots.
The measures also include a vaccine mandate for millions of federal government workers and come as cases in the country are surging.
The plan will involve requiring private companies employing more than 100 people to ensure all workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
"This is not about freedom or personal choice, it's about protecting yourself and those around you, people you work with, people you care about, the people you love," Biden said.
Several US companies have already announced similar moves, and Biden noted that even the highly critical Fox News would abide.
"We're going to protect vaccinated workers from their unvaccinated co-workers. We're going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America," he said.
Only limited exemptions will be allowed for religious reasons or for people with disabilities.
Republican lawmakers said the administration was overstepping its authority with the requirement, which it plans to enforce through an emergency rule to be developed by the Department of Labor.
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