US news outlets reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration will distribute 400 million high-quality face masks to Americans for free starting next week.
A White House official, speaking anonymously, said N95 masks will be shipped to thousands of local pharmacies and community health centers across the United States starting later this week, with three masks available per adult. The program will be fully operational by the beginning of February.
The N95 masks are part of 750 million masks held by the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which holds critical drugs and medical supplies for use during a public health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that N95 masks, which fit snugly around a person’s face, “provide the highest level of protection” against COVID-19 compared to other face masks.
Officials say the distribution of N95 masks will be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history.
The announcement of free N95 face masks comes on the same day as the official debut of a new federal government website that allows Americans to request free rapid coronavirus tests. Millions of households began placing orders for test kits on Tuesday during Covidtests.gov’s soft launch. The website allows each family to order a maximum of four tests after clicking on a link that leads to a US Postal Service form.
However, some residents of apartments and other multi-unit buildings have complained on social media that the website’s address verification tool is forcing a family of four per person, allowing only one family in each building to request tests.
The two programs are part of the Biden administration’s aggressive new efforts to combat the surge in new COVID-19 infections, mostly caused by the highly contagious micromicron variant of the coronavirus.
A senior World Health Organization official said the world could end the COVID-19 pandemic this year with more equitable distribution of vaccines and treatments.
Dr Michael Ryan, Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, told the World Economic Forum on Tuesday that COVID-19 may never be eradicated, but stressed that the current public health emergency may finally be over. if more vaccines finally reach the world’s poorest countries. .
The UN health agency has repeatedly criticized the world’s richest countries for stockpiling vast amounts of COVID-19 vaccines and using them to vaccinate their citizens, while poorer countries barely received even the first dose of the vaccine.
More than 334,469,000 people worldwide have fallen ill since COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The center reports more than 5.5. million deaths worldwide.
Germany announced on Wednesday that it had 112,323 new cases of COVID-19, the country’s highest daily rate and surpassed the 100,000 mark in a single day for the first time. The Robert Koch Institute, the German agency for disease control and prevention, said 70 percent of new cases were caused by a highly contagious variant of omicron. A surge in new infections has prompted the government of new Chancellor Olaf Scholz to consider introducing mandatory vaccinations.
Tokyo and 12 other Japanese prefectures will be put in place with new COVID-19 restrictions effective Friday as Japan battles a surge caused by microns. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in the Japanese capital on Wednesday that the new order would allow local governors to limit the opening hours of bars and restaurants and ban the sale of alcohol. The restrictions will remain in effect until February 13.
Some of the information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.