United States President Joe Biden speaks in Washington, DC on July 6, 2021.

SAUL LOEB | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden is expected to announce this week that his government will vaccinate federal employees against the coronavirus or undergo rigorous testing, NBC News reported Wednesday.

Biden will give a speech on Thursday to reveal the new rules following a review of the White House’s internal guidelines, two government officials told NBC. It is unclear when the changes will take effect.

Biden is also expected to announce new moves by his administration to increase the U.S. vaccination rate, which has slowed significantly in recent months and has fallen below the White House’s earlier targets, NBC reported.

The new measures come as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads around the world, including the United States, where it represents a large proportion of new infections.

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Public health officials warn the US could face another surge in cases this fall. They also point out that the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized or killed by Covid are unvaccinated and that “breakthrough infections” tend to be milder among those vaccinated.

In preparation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed their guidelines on wearing masks indoors on Tuesday. The CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people and children wear masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates and in schools.

On the same day, Biden said it was “being considered” whether the White House would require vaccination of all federal employees.

A government agency has already taken the plunge. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would order its health care workers to get vaccinated. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said it was “the best way to protect veterans”.

Biden also endorsed the CDC’s latest mask guidelines. And on Tuesday night, the White House Bureau of Management and Household Budget announced federal agencies that they must mandate masks for employees in all federal buildings in high-transmission areas, according to NBC.

The White House did not have to make a decision on compulsory vaccination until Tuesday night.

A source familiar with the considerations told CNBC at the time that a system of “vaccination certification” – which requires federal employees to confirm their vaccination status or follow safety measures such as wearing masks and regular tests – is “an option” under strong consideration. “