U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday condemned what he called “vicious hate crimes” targeting Asian Americans since the COVID-19 outbreak, saying such acts must stop.

“Too often, we’ve turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes, it divides us … vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans, who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated” during the pandemic, Biden said in his first primetime speech as president.

“At this very moment, so many of them, our fellow Americans — they’re on the front lines of this pandemic trying to save lives, and still, they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” he said while addressing the nation. “It’s wrong. It’s un-American and it must stop,” he added.

Biden issued a memorandum late January condemning “inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric” that has put Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at risk, including references to geographic locations of the virus origins that have stoked “unfounded fears.”

In his Thursday speech on the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Biden said he will direct U.S. states to make every adult eligible to get vaccinated by May 1.

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