By Laura Barros
Washington, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- United States president Joe Biden returned the country to the Paris Agreement, stopped it from leaving the World Health Organization (WHO), enacted protections for immigrants and urged the use of the masks to curb the Covid-19 epidemic on Wednesday, reversing many policies of former leader Donald Trump.
Sitting in the Oval Office with a stack of blue folders to one side, Biden set to work on enacting his government’s first 17 executive orders in front of reporters, hours after being sworn into office during a heavily guarded ceremony on Capitol Hill.
“Some of the executive actions I’m going to be signing today are going to help change the course of the Covid crisis, we’re going to combat climate change in a way that we haven’t done so far and advance racial equity and support other underserved communities,” he said.
It was the fight against the coronavirus at which Biden directed his first executive order, establishing the use of masks and physical distancing as mandatory requirements on federal properties.
The Democratic leader proposed a challenge of 100 days of wearing a mask, the same timeframe that has been given for the vaccination more than 100 million Americans.
“To combat the deadly virus, the president launched his 100-day masking challenge, asking Americans to do their part,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in her first meeting with journalists.
She added that the order to wear a mask will also apply to public transport.
Biden sought to disassociate himself from Trump’s management of the pandemic. For months, Trump and his followers refused to wear masks in public, and the Republican leader himself caught Covid-19 in October.
The Biden administration hopes to implement a new strategy to curb the rapid spread of the disease, which in the first days of the year reached records in infections and deaths.
The US leads the world statistics with more than 24.4 million positive cases and more than 400,000 deaths – almost twice that of Brazil, which is second in mortality figures, according to the independent count of Johns Hopkins University.
Psaki also stressed that the US will remain in the WHO, which she said will strengthen the country’s efforts to control the pandemic.
The spokeswoman confirmed that the former Trump White House chief epidemiologist and now Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, will participate remotely in a WHO meeting on Thursday leading a delegation from the country.
In July last year, Trump began the process to leave the world body, which was to take effect a year later. In addition, the now former president in April froze US funding to the WHO, accusing it of being “biased” in favor of China and of having mismanaged the health crisis.
During the election campaign and since his poll victory, Biden has defended the need to listen to scientists and WHO experts.
Another of the measures that Biden signed was to reverse Trump’s decision to remove the US, one of the world’s top polluters, from the Paris Agreement.
The withdrawal became effective on Nov. 4. As soon as the US exit became effective, Biden announced that the country would return under his mandate.
Psaki said that rejoining the Paris Agreement puts the US “back in a position to exercise global leadership.”
Also on his first day as president, Biden signed an executive order to safeguard the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some 650,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children and known as the “Dreamers,” from deportation.
He also signed another decree ordering a halt to the construction of the border wall with Mexico, by ending the national emergency decreed by Trump to divert funds to the project.