US President Joe Biden delivered his inaugural speech looking out across the National Mall, which was covered in a field of flags instead of inauguration crowds since citizens were told to stay home because of the virus.

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden look on as they leave the US Capitol after the inauguration ceremony, in Washington, US, January 20, 2021.
US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden look on as they leave the US Capitol after the inauguration ceremony, in Washington, US, January 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Joe Biden has became the 46th president of the United States, declaring that “democracy has prevailed" as he took the helm of a deeply divided nation and inherited a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

Biden's inauguration came at a time of national tumult and uncertainty, a ceremony of resilience as the hallowed American democratic rite unfurled at a US Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago. 

The chilly Washington morning was dotted with snow flurries, but the sun emerged just before Biden took the oath of office, the quadrennial ceremony persevering even though it was encircled by security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious and democracy is fragile. At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said. "This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day. A day in history and hope, of renewal and resolve.”

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Biden looked out over a capital city dotted with empty storefronts that attest to the pandemic’s deep economic toll and where summer protests laid bare the nation’s renewed reckoning on racial injustice.

“We have much to do in this winter of peril, and significant possibilities: much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build and much to gain,” Biden said. "Few people in our nation’s history have more challenged, or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”

His predecessor's absence underscored the healing that is needed.

Biden did not mention Trump by name in the early moments of his inaugural address but alluded to the rifts his predecessor had helped create.

“I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh, ugly reality of racism, nativism, fear, demonization that have long torn us apart,” Biden said.

“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward and we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”

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Covid-19 response

President Joe Biden said he will immediately reset the nation's response to the Covid-19 crisis when he heads to the Oval Office.

As part of a first sweep of executive actions, Biden will order that all federal employees wear masks and make face coverings mandatory on federal property. He will establish a new White House office to coordinate the coronavirus response and halt the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization, a process initiated by former President Donald Trump.

The orders will fulfill Biden's campaign promise to make Covid-19 relief a top priority and will mark a sharp divergence from the Trump administration's pandemic response, which critics say was ineffectual, uncoordinated and at least partly responsible for the death of more than 400,000 Americans.

Minutes after Biden took his oath of office at a scaled-back inauguration ceremony unlike any other in US history, he asked onlookers to join him in a silent prayer for the 400,000 Americans who perished from Covid-19.

"We're entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation," Biden said.

He delivered his inaugural speech looking out across the National Mall, which was covered in a "field of flags" instead of typical inauguration crowds since citizens were told to stay home to avoid the risk of contagion.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies