New York to allow COVID-19 tests in pharmacies

New York, April 26 (IANS) New York, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, will allow pharmacies to carry out tests for the virus, said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo announced on Saturday that antibody screenings would be expanded at four hospitals, beginning with frontline medical workers, the BBC reported.

He also said independent pharmacies would be allowed to collect samples for diagnostic tests.

It is part of a drive to find out how widely the virus has spread across the state of 20 million people.

“Twenty-one days of hell, and now we are back to where we were 21 days ago,” he said. “Testing is what we are compulsively or obsessively focused on now.”

Healthcare staff and essential workers – such as police officers, firefighters, bus drivers and shop assistants – would be able to get tests even if they did not have any symptoms of infection, he said.

This was important not just for their own safety but also to protect the public, he said.

“Since we now have more collection sites, more testing capacity, we can open up the eligibility for those tests,” the BBC quoted Cuomo as saying.

Hospital admissions in the state have also begun to fall, Cuomo said, in what he described as a sign the crisis was starting to subside.

However, the number of deaths announced on Friday increased slightly to 437 – the first time it had risen in four days.

Last week, Cuomo said nearly 14 per cent of 3,000 people in a study had tested positive for the presence of antibodies, suggesting the virus had spread widely throughout the population.

The US has 939,235 confirmed cases. Almost a third of the 53,934 deaths happened in New York City alone.