Hundreds of millions of Americans to avail of free high-grade face masks

Distribution of N95 masks planned for pharmacies, health centres across America

A N95 mask at a warehouse in Mt. Vernon. Photograph: Charlie Rubin/The New York Times

A N95 mask at a warehouse in Mt. Vernon. Photograph: Charlie Rubin/The New York Times

 

About 400 million high-grade face masks are to be made available free of charge to Americans by the Biden administration as part of its battle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The non-surgical N95 masks, which will be drawn from a US strategic national stockpile, will be made available for free at tens of thousands of convenient locations across the country.

The administration, which is marking the first anniversary of president Biden’s inauguration this week, is expected to announce the move on Wednesday which it believes will be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history.

Separately the Biden administration’s new website allowing Americans to order up to four at-home coronavirus tests free of charge quietly went live on Tuesday, a day ahead of its scheduled official launch.

Analysts maintained that there were more than 700,000 visitors on the homepage of covidtests.gov by early Tuesday afternoon.

The Biden administration has faced strong criticism about the shortage of at-home Covid-19 test kits on foot of surging demand due to the increase in cases of the Omicron variant.

Under the new Biden plan the higher-quality N95 masks are likely to be available from pharmacies and community health facilities.

The Biden administration is understood to have about 750 million masks in place as part of its strategic stockpile.

A White House official said that the process of shipping the new masks would commence at the end of this week.

The White House official said the masks would start to be available at pharmacies and community health centres late next week.

The full programme of distribution is expected to be up and running by early February.

President Joe Biden last week signalled that the administration planned to distribute masks for free, acknowledging that for some individuals, obtaining high-quality masks was “not always affordable or convenient.”