US to suspend free Covid-19 tests this week

Move marks change in response to coronavirus pandemic, with lack of funding from Congress

The delivery of free Covid-19 antigen rapid tests from the US government is to be suspended. Getty Images
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The US government said it will this week pause providing free Covid-19 self-test kits for US residents due to a lack of funding.

"Ordering through this programme will be suspended on Friday, September 2 because Congress hasn’t provided additional funding to replenish the nation’s stockpile of tests," says the website, where US residents can order tests.

The website has been live since the Omicron surge in January, when people could order rapid antigen tests for their household.

President Joe Biden's administration has been calling on Congress to approve at least $22 billion for its Covid package since the spring, as the lack of funding has depleted access to free tools for Americans.

A senior administration official told NBC News that the US was saving a stockpile of tests in case of a surge in autumn and winter, which could mean the website will reopen for orders.

The move could mark a change in the US government's response to the pandemic and an end to free tests and treatments.

"My hope is that in 2023, you're going to see the commercialisation of almost all of these products," White House Covid-19 response team co-ordinator Dr Ashish Jha said this month. "Some of that is actually going to begin ... in the days and weeks ahead."

The US health agency has recorded a seven-day average of 88,594 daily cases, although that is likely to be an undercount.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 4:44 PM