US election: Joe Biden pushes forward with plans for office

US President-elect Joe Biden is to make tackling the coronavirus pandemic his top priority following his win over Donald Trump, his team says.

Announcing the first steps in his transition plan, his team said there would be more testing and Americans would be asked to wear masks.

He will also focus on the economy, tackling racism and climate change.

Mr. Trump has yet to concede and Mr. Biden’s win remains a projection as key states are still counting votes.

However, the Democrat is forging ahead with his plans for assuming power in January after major US networks called the election in his favor on Saturday.

That reportedly also includes a slew of executive orders – written orders issued by the president to the federal government that do not require congressional approval – aimed at reversing controversial Trump policies. According to US media:

  • Mr. Biden will rejoin the Paris climate agreement, which the US officially left on Wednesday
  • He will reverse the decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization
  • He will end the travel ban on citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries
  • He will reinstate an Obama-era policy of granting immigration status to undocumented migrants who entered the US as children

In his first speech as president-elect on Saturday, Mr. Biden said it was “time to heal” the US and vowed “not to divide but to unify” the country. Addressing Trump supporters directly, he said: “We have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”

He and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris have launched a website for the transition.

The projected election result means Mr. Trump becomes the first one-term president since the 1990s. The Republican president’s campaign has filed a barrage of lawsuits in various states but election officials say there is no evidence that the vote was rigged against him, as he has said.

In another development, former Republican President George W Bush congratulated Mr. Biden on his election victory, saying the American people could have confidence that the election had been fundamentally fair and that its outcome was clear.

He also congratulated Mr. Trump on a hard-fought campaign.

What’s Biden’s pandemic plan?

The president-elect is vowing a major shift in the way the White House approaches coronavirus after Mr Trump repeatedly downplayed its gravity and resisted public health measures including wearing masks and social distancing.

polling station in Missouri Oct 30

The Biden team said it would ensure all Americans had access to regular and free testing and provide “clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance” to communities.

Mr Biden also wants rules mandating the wearing of masks across the country, which he says would save thousands of lives. He plans to call on every American to wear a mask when they are around people outside their own household and wants state governors and local authorities to make this obligatory.

The president-elect has regularly appeared in public wearing a mask while Mr Trump has largely avoided doing so.

US cases rose by more than 125,000 on Saturday for the third day in a row and deaths exceeded 1,000 for the fifth day in a row. More than 237,000 people have died. Earlier this month top US virus expert Dr Anthony Fauci said the US “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” as the country approached winter and people spent more time congregating indoors.

Mr Biden also announced plans to reboot the virus-hit US economy, which has seen millions more people become unemployed, by boosting manufacturing, investing in infrastructure, making childcare more affordable and reducing the wealth gap between different ethnic groups.