Home Test, Traveler Restriction: US Announces Measures to Contain Ômicron

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After the detection of the Ômicron variant in the United States, the government of President Joe Biden released, on Thursday (2), measures – determined by a plan of the White House – to impose stricter rules on citizens and travelers in the country.

Among the actions announced to increase the response to the pandemic, the United States will make available free home tests of Covid-19, the application of booster doses will be expedited and stricter rules will be adopted for travelers.

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Below are some of the plan’s key measures, released by the White House and unveiled by President Joe Biden at the National Institutes of Health:

Free trials at home

Private health insurers will be required to reimburse customers for the cost of home testing of Covid-19, the White House said, with the government issuing federal guidelines by Jan. 15.

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For the uninsured, home tests will be made available free of charge at community testing sites.

At least eight over-the-counter rapid antigen tests have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, including Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW, OraSure Technologies Inc’s InteliSwab, ACON Laboratories’ FlowFlex, and Ellume’s Home Test. Other manufacturers include Quidel Corp, Becton Dickinson and Co, Celltrion Inc, iHealth Labs Inc and InBios International Inc.

Health insurers already cover the most accurate PCR tests done by laboratories, which are not FDA-approved for home use.

Encouragement of booster doses

The US Department of Health and Human Services, along with pharmaceutical companies, will launch a public information campaign to encourage booster shots, following revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week, recommending that all adults receive a booster dose.

Pharmacies will contact customers by text and email, and will take steps to increase vaccine availability, including on weekends and evenings, according to the White House.

The government’s Medicare insurance program for people 65 and older and the disabled and the Medicaid program for the low-income will also make outreach efforts to encourage booster shots among the millions who need it.

Federal government employees will be given paid leave to receive their booster shots, Biden said, encouraging private employers to do the same for their workers.

More stringent travel requirements

The US CDC will require international passengers arriving in the country to have been tested for Covid-19 within the 24-hour period, regardless of their vaccination status, sources told Reuters.

The requirement to wear a mask on planes, trains and public transport vehicles will be extended until March 18th.

The new 24-hour test requirement applies to US citizens as well as foreign nationals, and may take effect next week.

CDC officials have also ordered airlines to reveal the names of passengers who have recently been to eight southern African countries – which have identified the first cases of Ômicron – and will provide them to state and local public health agencies.

More family vaccination clinics

The government will launch hundreds of family immunization clinics across the country, which will allow parents, grandparents and eligible children to receive starter vaccines and booster doses at a “one-stop shop,” the White House said.

Community health centers will host the clinics throughout December. Mobile health clinics will also be rolled out across the country, starting in Washington and New Mexico, according to the plan.

Retail pharmacies, including CVS Health Corp and Rite Aid Corp, will begin to allow family-based appointment scheduling, the White House said.

Increased supply of treatments

The White House said any new Covid-19 treatment pill approved by US regulators would be “equitably accessible to all Americans, regardless of income or zip code,” adding that it was working to secure 13 million doses of antivirals .

President Joe Biden said that some doses have already been secured.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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