US lifts most mask guidance in pandemic milestone

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Washington: US President Joe Biden said fully vaccinated Americans can ditch their masks in most settings, even indoors or in large groups after declaring victory over the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” Biden told reporters from the White House rose garden.

“If you’re fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile,” he said.

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

The move sparked joyful reactions in some, but others experienced whiplash and said they would continue to wear their masks out of caution.

The guidance shift Thursday is a turning point in the fight against Covid-19 and comes as US caseloads fall and vaccinations rise. It signals a broad return to everyday life, and is also a bet that any surge in spread from relaxed guidelines won’t be enough to reverse progress in inoculations. The administration also used it as a further incentive for vaccination.

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