Website for free at-home Covid tests launches in US

People in the US can now request free tests, but will face shipping delays

A healthcare worker with at-home Covid-19 test kits at a distribution event in Youngstown, Ohio. AP

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US President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday quietly launched its website for Americans to request free at-home Covid-19 tests, a day before the site was scheduled to officially open.

The website, COVIDTests.gov, now includes a link for US residents to order up to four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the US Postal Service.

It marks the latest step by Mr Biden to address criticism of low inventory and long queues for testing during a nationwide surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

A White House official said the website is “currently in its beta phase” and operating at a “limited capacity ahead of its official launch”. The website will officially launch midmorning on Wednesday, the official said.

Mr Biden last month ordered 500 million at-home test for the programme, and on Thursday, he announced he was doubling the order to one billion tests.

But Americans shouldn’t expect a rapid turnaround on the orders.

The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering” through the USPS, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental US.

Orders placed on Tuesday would be shipped in “late January”, USPS said.

Officials emphasised that the federal website is only one way for people to procure Covid-19 tests, and shortages of at-home test kits have shown signs of easing as more supply has hit the market.

Since Saturday, private insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of at-home rapid tests, allowing people to be reimbursed for tests they purchase at pharmacies and online retailers. That covers up to eight tests per month.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 7:30 PM