Experts had criticized Biden’s initial buy-first, get-paid-later approach as unwieldy and warned that the U.S. would face another round of problems with testing at a critical time. Testing advocates point to countries like the U.K. and Germany, which have distributed billions of tests to the public and recommend people test themselves twice a week.

With the omicron variant on the march, President Joe Biden plans to announce 500 million free rapid tests for Americans, increased support for hospitals under strain and a redoubling of vaccination and boosting efforts, AP reports.

In a speech scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, Biden is detailing major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, his hand forced by the arrival of the fast-spreading variant, whose properties are yet not fully understood by scientists.

The world is confronting the prospect of a second straight holiday season with COVID-19 as families and friends begin to gather. Scientists don’t yet know whether omicron causes more serious disease, but they do know that vaccination should offer strong protections against severe illness and death. The White House provided details on the proposals Biden will announce in his speech.

A cornerstone of the plan is Biden’s decision for the government to purchase 500 million coronavirus rapid tests and ship them free to Americans starting in January. People will use a new website to order their tests, which will then be sent to them by U.S. mail at no charge, the White House said.

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