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A technician in PPE performs COVID tests next to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris this morning. Photo: Glen Johnson/Axios

PARIS Pharmacies from Italy north to Paris are offering cheap, quick COVID tests as countries try to preserve their holiday traditions and economies.

Why it matters: Europe has been ahead of the U.S. in suffering the effects of Omicron.

Glen's family trip over the past 10 days offers lessons for the U.S.:

  • You get in virtually no restaurant without proof of vaccination. For Europeans, it's a digital pass via a QR code on their smartphones. For Americans, it's showing their CDC vaccination card — and occasionally a passport to prove it's their card.
  • A pre-departure test from Italy required a three-hour wait in Milan's chilly Piazza Duomo. Then Swiss border guards never asked for the certificate or the country's mandatory pre-entry registration form.
  • In Paris, pharmacies and even the Champs-Élysées had pop-up test centers. They offered rapid tests — with certified results emailed directly to digital pass holders or verified with a paper certificate — that are good for air travel. It cost €30 (about $34).

What we're watching:

  • Packed sidewalks and cafés in Paris, and crowds for a full-moon tour of the Coliseum in Rome, show people are trying to resume normal life.
  • Plenty of people aren't wearing masks, but many are. In Rome, police outside the Pantheon were telling visitors to pull them up over their noses.
  • Strategies that have worked: Masks indoors and outdoors, except when away from crowds; eating outdoors when possible and away from others when indoors; traveling by van to avoid airport and airplane crowds; wearing N95 masks in Paris.

The bottom line: Travel is possible — even overseas. But you have to be flexible and ready to spend time and money.

  • For the Johnson family, that included showing a vax card, game ticket and passport (to prove the ticket was theirs), to enter famed San Siro stadium in Milan to watch Inter Milan beat Serie A soccer rival Torino. The crowd of over 50,000 all wore masks.
  • It also means one more test today. Six people are hoping for negative results so they can avoid cancellations of flights taking some east — and the rest back to the Sneak Peek editing desk.

Go deeper

Biden announces purchase of additional 500 million COVID-19 tests

Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday that his administration is buying an additional 500 million rapid tests to distribute to people in the U.S. for free.

Driving the news: The administration previously bought 500 million rapid tests in December, which are scheduled to arrive this month. With the purchase announced today, the U.S. will have 1 billion tests in total "to meet future demand," Biden said.

Jan 10, 2022 - Health

Insurers to cover costs for at-home COVID tests starting Saturday

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits rest on a table at a free distribution event for those who received vaccination shots or booster shots on Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images

Health insurers will be required to cover costs for over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests starting this Saturday, the Health and Human Services Department announced Monday.

Why it matters: Under President Biden's strategy to expand access to free COVID testing, insurers will either cover costs upfront or reimburse people after they submit claims.

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

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