Biden announces more free Covid tests, more military doctors to fight Omicron

Washington, Jan 13 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that his administration will provide 500 million more free Covid testing kits and will deploy new teams of military doctors to help local health authorities deal with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

In a White House speech, Biden announced the measures as the US is registering record numbers of Covid cases and hospitalizations due to the high transmissible new strain of the virus, which in just the past few weeks has already become the predominant variant around the country.

The president said that the 500 million test kits will be in addition to the 500 million his administration had announced earlier and that the new batch is in the process of being purchased so that they can be sent free of charge to US homes requesting them.

He said that the government will establish a Web page in the coming week where people will be able to ask for free test kits to be sent to their homes.

Biden noted that when he took office a year ago, about 2 million Covid-19 tests were being performed each day and none of those tests were at-home tests or provided quick results.

Biden said that the administration has seen “real improvement” in its efforts to increase Covid testing around the country and, by the end of January, will be conducting some 15 million tests per day on top of 375 million at-home tests expected to be taken by Americans in this month alone.

Besides the 1 billion Covid test kids that the White House will put at the disposal of Americans gratis, Biden also ordered insurance companies to foot the bill for eight home test kits per month per person starting on Jan. 15.

Another of the administration’s measures announced on Thursday was to deploy more military medical personnel – a total of six new teams with a total of 120 members – to the states most affected so far by the Omicron variant, namely Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island, to alleviate the scarcity of health professionals in certain hospitals.

Those military healthcare workers will join the 350 Armed Forces physicians, nurses and other medical personnel already deployed in 24 states and territories, and which come in addition to some 800 other workers, if one counts non-military healthcare personnel deployed by other federal agencies.

Biden added that he has activated 14,000 members of the National Guard in 49 states to support this work.

In his address, the president reiterated his call for people to get vaccinated against Covid and to wear a facemask when outside the home, since – according to the latest figures – a third of Americans say that they never wear a facemask.

“The unvaccinated are dying from Covid-19,” the president said, adding “As long as we have tens of millions of people who will not get vaccinated, we’re going to have full hospitals and needless deaths. So the single most important thing to determine your outcome is getting vaccinated.”

Biden emphasized that his administration wants high-quality masks to be widely available – a reference to KN95 and N95 masks – at accessible prices and which can be sold over the Internet or in stores.

And he added that, since not all Americans can buy a high-quality mask or cannot find them at local stores, his administration next week will announce measures to facilitate free access to them for anyone who wants them.

The US is the country that has been hardest hit by the Covid pandemic with more than 63 million cases registered to date and more than 800,000 deaths, according to figures compiled by The Johns Hopkins University.

EFE ssa/pamp/lll/bp

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