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US promises to boost availability of COVID-19 tests

US promises to boost availability of COVID-19 tests

American travelers line up outside the TSA security checkpoint at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 22, 2021, ahead of the Christmas. All 50 states have discovered the Omicron variant while millions are expected to travel during the holidays. Photo: IC

With Omicron cases on the rise, New York health officials have reported an increase in hospitalized children, as the White House promised Sunday to quickly resolve the US’ COVID-19 test shortage.

The New York State Department of Health warned “of an upward trend in pediatric hospitalizations associated with COVID-19,” in a statement Friday.

In New York City, it “identified four-fold increases in COVID-19 hospital admissions for children 18 and under beginning the week of December 5 through the current week,” it said.

Approximately half of the admissions are younger than 5, an age group that is vaccine ineligible, the department added.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the US is on the rise, with an average of nearly 190,000 new infections daily over the past seven days, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The arrival of the new Omicron variant, compounded by holiday celebrations that typically include travel and family reunions, have caused a rush on tests in the US, where it is difficult to get one in many locations. Top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci on Sunday acknowledged a COVID-19 “testing problem” and vowed to make more tests available to Americans in January 2022.

“One of the problems is that that’s not going to be totally available to everyone until we get to January and there are still some issues now of people having trouble getting tested,” Fauci told ABC News.

“But we’re addressing the testing problem,” he added, saying it should be corrected “very soon.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a raft of new measures as the US battles its latest COVID-19 surge, including shipping half a billion free home tests in the wake of the Christmastime testing crunch.

However, the White House has faced strong criticism over the fact that many tests won’t be available until January.

Fauci on Sunday emphasized that the administration was ramping up to tackle the spike and stressed that Omicron was “extraordinarily contagious.”

“The issue that we don’t want to get complacent about… is that when you have such a high volume of new infections, it might override a real diminution in severity,” Fauci said.