U.S. to invest $70 million to boost access to COVID-19 tests

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A woman assists a client as people in cars wait in line at a COVID-19 drive-through testing site in Atlanta

(Reuters) – The Biden administration said it will invest $70 million to boost the availability and lower costs of rapid, over-the-counter COVID-19 tests in the United States, as it looks to ease a nationwide shortage that drove up testing costs.

High demand for the tests from U.S. employers amidst the Delta variant surge, especially with the U.S. government mandating large employers to have their workers inoculated and tested weekly, pushed up costs for state and local testing programs.

“Access to easy-to-use, affordable and reliable COVID tests is key to bringing peace of mind to our families, especially as we approach winter,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Monday.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will invest $70 million and work with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to help accelerate the review process to bring more tests to the U.S. market. The FDA is also streamlining its regulatory pathway for manufacturers developing over-the-counter at-home tests.

Separately, U.S. FDA said it has issued emergency use authorization to another rapid antigen test developed by Celltrion Diatrust, bringing the total number of rapid, at-home tests available to the public to 10.

The U.S. government has so far invested around $3 billion to procure rapid COVID-19 tests.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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