WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (March 1) said his administration has launched a new initiative that will allow Americans to get tested for Covid-19 at a pharmacy and immediately receive free pills if they test positive.
"We're launching the "Test to Treat" initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they're positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot, at no cost," Biden said during his State of the Union speech.
The United States has ordered more of these treatments than any other country in the world, Biden said, adding Pfizer-BioNTech will offer the US 1 million pills in March and more than double that in April.
The Pfizer pill, he said, reduces the chances of ending up in the hospital by 90 per cent.
The Biden administration will announce on Wednesday a national preparedness plan for Covid-19, mapping out how "to move forward safely and get back to our more normal routines", the White House said in a statement.
The White House previously said it is lifting requirements that fully vaccinated people wear masks on the White House campus, effective on Tuesday. It also told federal agencies they can drop Covid-19 requirements that employees and visitors wear masks in federal buildings in much of the country.
During his speech, Biden noted the progress America has made in fighting the coronavirus but warned Americans must prepare for new variants.
"I cannot promise a new variant won't come. But I can promise you we'll do everything within our power to be ready if it does," he said.
The US is now in a position to deploy new vaccines within 100 days instead of months or years, he said.