The inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on January 20 will be a low-key affair restricted for the public, the organisers said, urging people to participate in the historic event from home in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC), which is responsible for the planning and execution of the inaugural ceremonies of the president-elect and vice president-elect of the US at the Capitol, on Wednesday said that invitations to members of the 117th Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) urged the public to refrain from any travel and participate in the inaugural activities from home.
"Our goal is to create an inauguration that keeps people safe, honours the grand traditions of the Presidency, and showcases the Biden-Harris Administration's renewed American vision for an inclusive, equitable, and unified citizenry," said PIC CEO Tony Allen.
Traditionally, the JCCIC would distribute 200,000 tickets for the official ceremonies at the Capitol and provide ticket bundles to members of Congress to distribute to constituents.
On January 20, President-elect Biden, 78, and Vice-President-elect Harris, 56, will take their oaths of office at the US Capitol during a historic ceremony that includes vigorous health and safety protocols.
President-elect Biden will also deliver an inaugural address that lays out his vision to beat the virus, build back better, and bring the country together.
"The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union," said JCCIC Chairman Roy Blunt.
"We are also working on enhanced opportunities to watch the ceremonies online, in addition to the traditional televised national broadcast," he said.
"The election of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris was historic and we know that many Americans would have wanted to attend the Inauguration in-person. At the same time, safety must be our top priority," said Senator Amy Klobuchar.
"While the pandemic has forced us to limit in-person attendance, it also brings opportunities to honour our democracy in innovative ways so that Americans across the country can experience Inauguration Day from home," she said.
The electoral college, which met in respective State Capitols, on Monday had declared Biden as the winner of the November 3 elections. President Donald Trump has refused to concede the elections, even as he asked his administration to cooperate on transition.
In a separate statement, the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) said that the ceremony's footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined.
"President-elect Biden's unwavering commitment to the safety of the American people is our North Star as we plan an inauguration that protects public health while honouring inaugural traditions and engaging Americans across the country," said PIC executive director Maju Varghese.
"We are excited to share more information soon about the new and innovative ways all Americans can watch and participate in a historic inauguration that will unify our country," the Indian-American official said.
PIC has hired a team of seasoned production experts to put together a new and innovative program that provides opportunities for all Americans to participate safely in the inauguration, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
"The pandemic is continuing to have a significant public health impact across the nation. Americans everywhere must do their part to slow the spread of the virus: wear masks, stay home, and limit gatherings. We are asking Americans to participate in inaugural events from home to protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities," said PIC Chief Medical Advisor Dr David Kessler.
The US is the worst-hit nation from the pandemic. In the past week, it has reported an average of more than 215,000 new infections a day.
More than 303,000 people in the US have died from coronavirus in 10 months and the country has reported 16,964,173 COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.