US brings back free at-home Covid tests as part of winter plan

US households are once again able to order free at-home Covid-19 tests, as the government attempts to limit the spread of the virus this winter.

The White House said up to four rapid tests could be ordered from the government website

It announced that the test programme, which was paused in September, would be restarted on Thursday with deliveries beginning the week of 19 December.

The decision comes as Covid infections rise ahead of the winter holidays.

The Biden administration began sending free at-home tests in January, but stopped in September after more than 600 million tests were distributed because Congress did not approve the extra funding needed for the programme to continue.

But the government is now using funding left over from the American Rescue Plan, the Covid relief bill that was passed last year, to pay for the tests, a US official told the BBC’s US partner CBS.

“We feel confident that we are going to have enough tests to get through this round, four per household, in the coming weeks,” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday,

It is part of a broader White House plan to prepare for Covid this winter, when some Americans are at an increased risk of catching the virus as they gather indoors for the holidays.

The White House said it hoped to encourage Americans to take at-home tests when they are symptomatic, before and after travelling for the holidays and when visiting vulnerable individuals.

Covid cases, hospital visits and deaths have all begun to rise in recent weeks.

Some cities are calling on Americans to wear masks again in indoor spaces to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, while White House officials have urged Americans to get the latest Covid and flu jabs.

Only 13.5% of those aged five and older in the US have received the updated coronavirus shot targeting the omicron variant, according to the CDC.

Highly contagious omicron subvariants – which are now the dominant coronavirus strains in the US – are contributing to the uptick in cases.

Source: The BBC News

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