US lifts Covid-19 mask guidance for fully vaccinated people

  • The Centres for Disease Control said those who have been immunised against coronavirus no longer have to socially distance or wear a mask
  • President Joe Biden called the move a ‘milestone’ in the fight against the virus that has killed more than 580,000 Americans
Agence France-Presse |

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Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the country’s Covid-19 response and vaccination programme. Photo: AFP/TNS

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the top health agency in the US, announced on Thursday it was lifting mask-wearing guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a watershed moment that President Joe Biden called “a great day” in the long pandemic fight.

The announcement marked an abrupt turnaround after more than a year of urging people to cover their faces to stem the spread.

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“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

In an emotional speech from the White House, Biden declared a major victory in the battle against the virus that has seen more than 580,000 Americans die.

“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said.

A man wears a face mask inside a mall in New York City. The CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practise social distancing indoors or outdoors any longer. Photo: AFP

Accumulating data shows the extremely high efficacy of authorised vaccines, not just to prevent symptomatic Covid-19 but also asymptomatic infection and onward transmission.

Almost 60 per cent of US adults now have one or more doses, while cases are falling fast, down to a seven-day-average of 38,000.

Also on Thursday, the campaign to vaccinate adolescents aged 12-to-15 began in earnest following the authorisation of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group.

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According to the CDC’s website, masks may still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation travelling into, within, or out of the US, and in transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

Fully vaccinated international travellers arriving in the United States still need to get tested within three days of their flight, or show documentation of recovery from Covid-19 in the past three months.

Walensky said people who are immune compromised should talk to their doctor before giving up their mask. Finally, she added, the guidance was subject to change if the situation worsens.

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