Biden unveils free rapid tests in bid to curb spread of Omicron variant

Americans will no longer have to pay for home Covid-19 tests under plans to be announced by Joe Biden on Thursday to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, a day after the first case was confirmed in the United States.

The US president will outline a set of measures aimed at curbing infections during the winter, including free rapid tests, expanded mask authorization on public transportation, and tougher testing requirements. For international travelers.

but he did stay away from Imposing some of the stricter measures used in other countries, such as imposing testing or quarantine requirements on travelers after they arrive in the United States.

“Today’s actions will ensure that we use these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people from this alternative and continue to combat the delta variant during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive,” officials said in a statement.

The United States has only One case confirmed of the highly mutated Omicron variant, though officials said they expect more to emerge. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that the variant was detected in an individual who returned from South Africa on November 22, two days before the WHO reported Omicron.

Scientists said number of mutations In the new strain, the vaccines are likely to be less effective against it. Stefan Bancel, CEO of Moderna Vaccine Maker, He told the Financial Times, This week he predicted a “substantial decline” in the effectiveness of current vaccinations against Omicron.

countries have Hurry up to impose stricter rules Trying to block the new variable. The UK has announced that masks will be mandatory in indoor public spaces, while Israel has said it will close its borders to international arrivals for two weeks.

Biden will reveal his administration’s new public health policies Thursday after visiting the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Measures include allowing those covered by private health insurance to recoup the cost of rapid home antigen tests from their insurance company. The administration will also send the tests that will be delivered in clinics and health centers to those who do not have private insurance.

Starting early next week, every passenger will have to test negative within 24 hours of boarding a flight into the US, and will have to wear a mask on board – a requirement that is being extended at least until March.

But unlike many countries, the United States does not require international arrivals to be tested or quarantined after landing in the country. It also does not follow UK example Requiring people to take polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests instead of antigen tests, which have a greater potential for losing the Omicron strain.

Post-arrival measures can be difficult to implement in the US as they are imposed by state governors rather than the federal government. Many Republican governors, in particular, have resist imposition Covid restrictions in recent months.

A senior official said, “If additional measures can be implemented well and effectively, we will not hesitate to take them. But we will not take them today.”

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