WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday signalled a new tone for the US government by leading a powerful tribute to the 400,000 Americans lost to COVID-19 as he arrived in Washington on the eve of his inauguration.
Biden, who has suffered deep personal tragedy and is known for his public displays of emotion, has stressed the need to unite the country after President Donald Trump’s chaotic four years in office.
“It’s hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It’s important to do that as a nation,” Biden said in sombre remarks at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The US on Tuesday recorded another 2,482 deaths due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
Inauguration eve is normally a time of massive crowds gathering in the capital, but Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, were almost alone on the empty National Mall due to COVID-19 restrictions and heightened security after the deadly riot at the US Capitol.
On the Mall’s grassy expanse, some 200,000 flags were planted to represent the absent crowds at the inauguration ceremony yesterday.
Outside the White House fence, central Washington has taken on a dystopian look ahead of Biden’s inauguration, swarming with National Guard troops and largely emptied of ordinary people.
Fears of right-wing attacks in the wake of the pro-Trump riot in the Capitol building on January 6 have triggered unprecedented deployment of armed personnel, concrete barriers and secure areas dubbed “green” and “red” zones.
Adding to the tension, the Senate is expected to put Trump on trial soon, following his record second impeachment by the House of Representatives over the Capitol riot.
Trump, whose efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and console its victims have been widely criticised, will snub Biden by not attending the inauguration.
He has also yet to personally congratulate Biden on his win or invite him for the customary cup of tea in the Oval Office.
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