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Ends program providing free at-home Covid testing to US households | Coronavirus

The US government this week is suspending its free home testing program for Covid-19 amid disagreements over who should pay for the initiative.

The free home tests, which have provided up to 16 tests for each household, are scheduled to stop on Friday. In the future, people who require testing for work or travel, or who want to confirm whether they have the disease, will need to claim the costs of an at-home test from health insurance or seek results through federally-supported testing sites. .

The Biden White House is pointing the finger at Congress for the lapse in the program, which has been seen as a central pillar of public defenses against the coronavirus. the covid.gov The page on the government’s website through which free tests can be ordered pointedly said the suspension was necessary because “Congress has not provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s testing stockpile.”

The Biden administration had asked Congress for more than $23 billion earlier this year to pay for tests, vaccines and other protections. Republicans rejected the request, saying the money should come from other budgets.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden administration is similarly preparing to reduce access to free vaccines and covid treatments paid for with federal funds. The move was seen as a move to shift the costs of fighting the pandemic onto the health industry.

The phasing out of federal support comes as the first Covid vaccine that has been specially updated to protect against Omicron’s highly contagious variant is about to launch. Boosters may be available as early as next week and are expected to be cleared for anyone 12 and older.

Despite government funding control, covid remains a challenge for hospital systems across the country. The average number of new cases per day has decreased, but remains high, slightly above 90,000 a day.

The number of hospitalizations and deaths has also decreased, and Omicron has proven to be easily transmissible but less dangerous for those who contract it than previous variants. There are now some 38,000 people being treated in hospitals for the disease, and the daily death rate has dropped to less than 500 a day.

The administration’s decision to withdraw free home testing appears in part inspired by a desire to stockpile in preparation for an anticipated surge in cases as winter approaches. A White House official he told CNN: “Unfortunately, due to the limited funding we have to work with, we have had to make impossible decisions about which tools and programs to invest in, and which ones to scale back, pause, or end altogether.”

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