Americans can get free at-home COVID-19 tests soon — but they won’t work for travel

12h ago

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Editor’s note: This story will continually be updated as more information is available 


Although Americans will have access to order free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests thanks to the recent purchase of 500 million tests by the Biden administration, they won’t be helpful with travel.

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Beginning Jan. 19, Americans will be able to order up to four tests per household online at COVIDTests.gov, with expected ship dates within one week to 12 days of ordering, White House officials announced on Jan. 14.

Tests will be mailed directly to homes.

“There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address,” President Biden said in a press conference Friday, while noting the more than 20,000 free testing sites across the nation.

Related: Incoming passengers from specific countries can get free COVID-19 testing at 4 US airports

Per a White House spokesperson, all of the Biden administration-issued tests are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, but whether they are suitable for use for international travel depends on the country.

The United States, for example, requires all air passengers age 2 and older to show proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within one day of departure for the U.S.

Per guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this test can either be a PCR or antigen test so long as it’s proctored.

Thus, the at-home tests issued by the Biden administration starting next week are unlikely to be accepted for travel to the U.S., but Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test and Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test, both of which were previously approved by the CDC, do work. The CDC did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Note that most at-home tests are antigen tests and not widely accepted abroad, though at-home tests in which your test is administered by a proctor virtually may suffice.

Instead, these tests can be used for peace of mind, such as for group gatherings.

Be sure to consult any entry and exit rules as they pertain to COVID-19 for specific countries, outlined by the U.S. Embassy and other government officials.

Read more: Your guide to at-home COVID-19 tests for international travel

Featured photo of President Joe Biden on Jan. 14, 2022, by Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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