Biden announces free rapid tests to limit spread of Omicron variant

Americans will no longer have to pay for at-home Covid-19 tests under a plan Joe Biden will announce on Thursday to slow the spread of the coronavirus variant Omicron, a day after the first case was confirmed. received in the US.

The US president will outline a series of measures to reduce infections during the winter, including free rapid testing, expanding mask regulations on public transport and stricter testing requirements. tighter for international visitors.

But he has away imposes some of the more stringent measures used in other countries, such as mandatory inspection or quarantine requirements for travelers after they arrive in the United States.

“Today’s actions will ensure we are using these tools as effectively as possible to protect the American people against this variation and continue to fight it,” officials said in a statement. Delta variation during the winter months when viruses tend to thrive.”

The United States has only confirm a case of the Omicron variant is heavily mutated, although officials say they expect more to emerge. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday the variant was detected in an individual returning from South Africa on November 22, two days before Omicron was first reported to the US. World Health Organization.

Scientists say number of mutations in the new virus strain it is likely that the vaccine will be less effective against it. Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of vaccine maker Moderna, told the Financial Times this week, he plans to “reduce the material” in terms of the effectiveness of existing preparations against Omicron.

Countries that have rush to impose stricter rules in an attempt to block the new variant. The UK has announced that masks will be mandatory in indoor public spaces, while Israel has said it will close its borders to international visitors for two weeks.

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

The measures include allowing people with private health insurance to pay for the cost of a rapid antigen test at home from their insurance company. The government will also send tests to be distributed at clinics and health centers to those without private insurance.

From early next week, all travelers will have to test negative within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the US and will be required to wear a mask upon boarding – a requirement that was extended at least until March.

But unlike many countries, the US does not require international visitors to be checked or quarantined after landing in the country. It also doesn’t follow Example of Great Britain ask people to do polymerase chain reaction tests, or PCR, instead of antigen tests, which are more likely to lack the Omicron strain.

Post-arrival measures can be difficult to implement in the United States because they are imposed by state governors, not the federal government. In particular, many Republican governors have resist oppression Covid restrictions in recent months.

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

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