The Group of 7 world leaders gathered Friday in Carbis Bay, England, for their first in-person summit in nearly two years after last year’s meeting was canceled due to the pandemic.
The meeting of the the heads of the world’s major economies — Britain, France, Germany, the U.S., Italy, Japan, and Canada — also marks President Biden’s first foreign trip since taking office.
Video of the world leaders greeting each other on the Cornish coast shows them sharing awkward elbow bumps despite not wearing face masks.
Fortunately, however, they have all been vaccinated.
All seven heads of state have been inoculated against the coronavirus, President Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Meanwhile, however, Macron’s official Twitter account tweeted out a video of the French president and Biden speaking privately off to the side at the G7 summit, standing very close together and neither wearing a mask. Macron at one point is seen grasping Biden’s arm.
“The Leaders discussed a range of regional and bilateral issues, including COVID-19 and counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, and affirmed the importance of the U.S.-France partnership and the Transatlantic alliance,” a White House spokesperson told CNN of the private discussion between the two presidents.
One might also note that the copious elbow bumping brought the unmasked faces of the world leaders closer together than a simple handshake would have.
Biden has previously received criticism for appearing overly cautious with regard to face masks and social distancing, a question that has dogged his administration as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begins to relax restrictions, especially for vaccinated people.
Last month, Biden was asked by a reporter about his preference to wear a face mask even around other vaccinated people.
“Because when we’re inside it’s still good policy to wear the mask,” Biden responded.
The leaders of the @G7 have arrived for this year’s Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) June 11, 2021
At official welcome, @JustinTrudeau is the only leader to use a mask. He puts it on briefly to elbow-bump @BorisJohnson, then removes it before crossing in front of them and chatting and posing on the other side. #G7 #G7Summit #G7UK pic.twitter.com/ArrNwNdjUs
— Abigail Bimman (@AbigailBimman) June 11, 2021
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) June 10, 2021
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 11, 2021
CNN’s Jake Tapper also quizzed Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, on the same issue in May, asking whether Biden’s mask-wearing is “overly cautious” and sending the wrong message.
Zients responded that Biden is going to “continue to follow the CDC guidance.”
The CDC’s current guidance says that a vaccinated person need not wear a face mask in small groups of people who are also vaccinated.
CNN’s John Berman last month pressed White House Senior Advisor for Coronavirus Response Andy Slavitt on why Biden wore a face mask during an Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders, all of whom are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“Part of getting people vaccinated is to tell them that their lives will be different, changed, better, if they get the vaccine,” Berman remarked. “So why were they all wearing masks? And what message does that send?”
Slavitt responded that Biden wears a mask indoors “because he’s a very important person.”
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