As Americans use at-home COVID-19 tests at record rates, pharmacy chains and retailers are enacting purchase limits.

CNN Business explained:

Amazon said it’s limiting purchases of its own at-home Covid-19 test collection kits to 10 on its online marketplace. Amazon’s third-party sellers on the site set their own quantity limits. “We are working hard to secure additional Covid-19 test inventory” from sellers, a spokesperson said.

Walmart has high stock levels of Covid-19 tests in stores, but is more constrained online, a spokesperson said. It has not placed purchase limits on Covid-19 tests in stores nationally, but is capping testing kits at 8 for online orders.

CVS acknowledged in a statement on Tuesday that tests may be temporarily out of stock at its stores. “To ensure equitable access to tests both in store and digitally, we’ve added a limit of six test kits per purchase,” the company said…

Walgreens said it’s limiting in-store and online purchases of at-home tests to four each time “due to the incredible demand for at-home rapid testing,” according to a statement on Tuesday.

The surge in demand for tests occurs as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the United States. The ZOE COVID Symptoms Study indicated that the top five symptoms for Omicron are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and sore throat — differentiating the variant from previous strains, which often brought high fevers, a heavy cough, and loss of smell.

“Omicron is set to be the dominant strain in the UK by Christmas, and in the New Year cases could hit a peak higher than anything we’ve ever seen before,” ZOE lead scientist Tim Spector said. “In London cases have been rising rapidly, but this will likely slow down soon, as people change their behavior, such as wearing face masks again, cancelling parties and working from home more.”

Many economists are now slashing their growth forecasts for next year due to Omicron. 

Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi reduced his first-quarter GDP prediction for the United States from 5.2% to 2.2%, as he “can see the economic damage mounting going into the first quarter.” He noted reductions in travel spending, as well as the cancellation of arts and entertainment events. Meanwhile, Pantheon Macroeconomics cut its forecast for annualized American GDP growth from 5% to 3% in the first quarter of 2022. 

“It’s unfortunate [the Omicron variant] had to break out during the holiday season, even in places like New York City, where people are highly vaccinated,” Barclays economist Pooja Sriram told The Wall Street Journal. “We see some kind of voluntary social distancing if people start canceling travel plans and become hesitant about using accommodation, that will have an effect on growth and employment.”

Over the holiday weekend, Omicron was at least partially responsible for a surge in flight cancellations — which The Daily Mail called a “Christmas Flightmare.” Nearly 1,000 flights either entering or leaving the United States were canceled on Christmas Day alone.

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