1 May 2020

Covid-19: Los Angeles offers free virus testing to residents

7:15 am on 1 May 2020

Los Angeles has become the first major US city to offer free coronavirus tests to all residents, regardless of whether they are displaying any symptoms.

A healthcare volunteer wearing protective gear gives a Covid-19 test kit to a driver at a mobile test site in Los Angeles, California on 23 April 2020.

A healthcare volunteer gives a Covid-19 test kit to a driver at a mobile test site in Los Angeles, California on 23 April. Photo: AFP

Mayor Eric Garcetti made the announcement just hours after Los Angeles County reported its largest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases.

Until now, only essential workers and those displaying symptoms could receive tests due to a scarcity of kits.

Los Angeles County currently accounts for almost half of California's confirmed coronavirus cases. The state has so far reported over 48,000 cases and more than 1900 deaths.

On Thursday, Garcetti urged all of the city's residents to get swabbed after earlier tweeting that "LA is now the first major city in America to offer free Covid-19 testing".

California expected to close all beaches across state

Crowds on Huntington Beach, California on Saturday 25 April.

Crowds on Huntington Beach, California on Saturday 25 April. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign an executive order to close all beaches and parks in the state after large crowds packed public spaces over the weekend.

While some of the state's beaches have been closed for weeks, others have remained open with social distancing rules in place.

Newsom recently said that he was just weeks away from lifting some restrictions.

But recent images of crowded beaches in the most populous US state led to a warning from the Democratic governor that the behaviour of some Californians threatened to undo weeks of work to restrict the spread of Covid-19.

"We can't see images like we saw, particularly on Saturday, in Newport Beach," the governor said on Monday, adding: "The virus doesn't take the weekend off because it's a beautiful sunny day around our coasts."

California was among the first US states to bring in blanket restrictions, issuing a "stay at home" order to residents last month in an effort to stem the march of the coronavirus.

In other US developments:

  • US-wide social distancing measures expire on Thursday, US President Donald Trump has said he will not renew them
  • More than one in six nursing homes in the US have recorded coronavirus cases, according to the Washington Post
  • Georgia is to let 16-year-olds drive without a road test due to social distancing measures
  • In the past week, 3.8 million more people filed for unemployment benefits in the US, meaning at least 30 million Americans have lost their jobs since mid-March
  • Mr Trump stepped up his criticism of China over the outbreak, saying the country "will do anything they can" to make him lose in his re-election bid