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Barack Obama scales back 60th birthday party as Covid cases rise

Former US President Barack Obama has scaled back plans for a big birthday party amid a rise in Covid infections nationwide.

Mr Obama turned 60 on Wednesday and had planned a major celebration on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts this weekend.

But as the highly contagious Delta variant has led to a surge in new infections, Mr Obama has announced plans to scale back the event.

Only close friends and family will now attend.

His spokesperson said the outdoor event on Saturday was planned months ago “in accordance with all public health guidelines”. But he and his wife Michelle Obama have now decided to limit its size.

“President Obama is appreciative of others sending their birthday wishes from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”

Media reports say hundreds of people were invited to the occasion, with rumours that actor George Clooney, director Steven Spielberg and talk show host Oprah Winfrey were all on the guest list.

But criticism about the event has grown with cases.

Daily cases have risen to an average not seen in months, while the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that masks should again be worn indoors for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated in light of rising infections.

The Obamas had reportedly encouraged people to get tested before attending, and have repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated.

Asked this week about the event, White House press secretary Jen Psaki advised attendees “to follow public health guidelines, which I know the former president… would certainly advocate for himself as well.”

Reports say President Joe Biden, who served as vice-president under Mr Obama, had chosen not to attend the party. –