The variant was first spotted by scientists in southern Africa and is now known to be found in more than 30 countries, including the United States. It has mutations that scientists say could allow it to spread faster and cause more infections in people who have been vaccinated or previously infected, although none of these characteristics have yet been confirmed.
In the United States, home coronavirus tests have been relatively difficult to obtain due to supply shortages, and they are expensive – up to $ 25 each. Dr Carlos del Rio, infectious disease specialist at Emory University, said that instead of letting people go through the tedious process of claiming insurance reimbursement for testing, “we should just subsidize them and pay them. make it incredibly cheap “.
The coronavirus pandemic: what you need to know
In Britain, he noted, rapid tests are free and in Germany they cost consumers around $ 1 each.
Reimbursement for home tests in the United States will not take place immediately and will not be retroactive, senior administration officials said, adding that federal agencies would issue guidelines by Jan. 15 to clarify that the insurers should reimburse people for home tests during the Covid-19 public health emergency. It was not known how many tests a person could be reimbursed for the purchase.
Private insurers are already covering the cost of coronavirus tests administered in doctors’ offices and other medical facilities. At least eight home tests are in the US market.
Looking to the future, experts envision a world where people will test themselves as soon as they show symptoms – then, if they test positive, go into quarantine and get treated with new antiviral drugs in development. The White House said it was taking action to secure 13 million antiviral treatments.
Mr Biden’s new strategy will extend the mask’s current tenure for people on planes, trains and buses, as well as in terminals and transit centers, until mid-March.
Only six states now require people to wear masks in indoor public places, regardless of their immunization status. Three others – California, New York and Connecticut – require indoor masks for unvaccinated people.