Biden’s free-COVID-test program gives out fewer tests and is significantly slower than its UK equivalent

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and President Joe Biden (R).

This week, millions of at-home COVID test kits will be available to Americans for free.
The program is a long time coming, and has existed in other countries for months.
The long-running UK program hands out more tests per person and delivers faster than the US.

Starting on Wednesday, millions of Americans will be able to order free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests from a centralized federal program.

President Biden’s move is meant to help counter the spread of the Omicron variant by giving a better impression of how many people are sick and who should isolate.

The decision to provide tests for free is also a stark change given that the White House not long ago dismissed such a proposal out of hand.

But in other countries, free at-home testing has been the norm for months. One such example is the UK, which offers a faster and more generous system than the one slated to open this week for Americans.

Slow rollout

Free coronavirus tests have been available in the UK since April 2021, giving it a ten-month head start on the US.

When Biden came into office, he promised to ramp up testing, but supply chain issues, shipping breakdowns, and increased demand during infection spikes led to a severe testing shortage, CNN reported.

Last month, Biden denied that the rollout had been slow, saying in a speech: “It didn’t take long at all,” according to the BBC.

US test kits are limited

US households will be able to order up to four COVID-19 tests at a time. It’s not clear how often repeat orders will be allowed.

In the UK, each box contains seven tests. That’s meant to last people three weeks, but it’s possible to order a new box every 24 hours.

…and delivery takes longer

Delivery of the US kits will take between one to two weeks, a senior Biden administration official said, according to The New York Times.

In the UK, the kits are posted first-class. The timeframe given for delivery is three days, but in practice, they can arrive the day after the order is placed.

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