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As the US enters the third year of the pandemic, the President has pledged to provide Americans with free tests and masks. An additional 500 million Covid test paraphernalia are to be bought for distribution, doubling the government’s previous purchase. Additionally, Mr Biden will send 120 military medical personnel to six states with overcrowded hospitals ~ Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The United States of America has of late been reckoned to be one of the acutely affected countries by coronavirus and its variant, Omicron. It thus comes about that President Biden, a man who came to power after highlighting his predecessor’s deficiencies in the area, has stepped up his administration’s response to the deadly surge. He has signalled his intent to send what he calls “urgently needed help’’ to hospitals that are overwhelmed.

As the US enters the third year of the pandemic, the President has pledged to provide Americans with free tests and masks. An additional 500 million Covid test paraphernalia are to be bought for distribution, doubling the government’s previous purchase. Additionally, Mr Biden will send 120 military medical personnel to six states with overcrowded hospitals ~ Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island. He intends to reveal next week his agenda to provide free, high-quality masks that are more effective at prevention of infection from the virus and increased testing. “This will mean a billion tests in total to meet the future demand. And we will continue to work with the retailers and online retailers to increase availability,” was at the core of the President’s pledge.

It is far from clear, however, as to when the test-kits will be available. Mr Biden announced the first batch of 500 million test-kits prior to Christmas. According to the White House, the first batch from that announcement will not start being delivered until later this month. Details about how Americans can ask for those tests, including a government-run test website are scheduled to be made public in the next few days. But the home-tests ~ along with more than 20,000 testing sites across the country ~ will help to meet the surging demand as people try to work, attend school and participate in social life despite the alarmingly rapid spread of the virus.

In terms of dealing with the health crisis though, Americans must reflect on the fact that the outcomes have been startlingly similar and as shockingly ineffective under an apparently responsive leader as they were when a complacent Trump was in charge.

At another remove, Astra-Zeneca has said that data based on early trial indicates that a third dose of its vaccine (available as Vaxzevria elsewhere and as Covishield in India) is helpful against Omicron and even other variants. The enhanced response, also against the Delta variant, was seen in a blood analysis of people who previously received other vaccines. The data will be conveyed to regulators worldwide considering the urgent need for boosters. Thursday’s brief statement was the first by Astra-Zeneca on the protective potential of Vaxzevria as a booster course.

The findings add to the increasing body of evidence supporting Vaxzevria as a booster irrespective of the primary vaccination. Oxford University and AstraZeneca have started work on a vaccine specifically targeting Omicron.