Police are forced to keep the peace as desperate New Yorkers scramble to get free home COVID test kits amid severe shortage: State hits record 44,000 daily cases and hospitalizations spike

  • Frustrated New Yorkers scrambled for free COVID tests at a truck in Brooklyn
  • One woman appeared visibly upset by the melee, with police also present
  • Five city sites, including the Brooklyn location, handed out 2,000 free tests Friday
  • Came amid case surge across New York, to more than 44,000  
  • Hospitalizations are also creeping up – but lawmakers insist the rise is manageable 

Desperate New Yorkers spent their Christmas Eve scrambling for COVID tests as infections driven by the Omicron variant surged across the Empire State.

Astonishing photos show how police had to keep the peace at a city-sponsored truck in Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, on Friday morning while city officials handed out 2,000 free Binax COVID home testing kits.

Scores of frustrated locals were photographed holding their hands out in the hopes of receiving one of the home testing kids, which the US has been slow to approve, and which are now in extremely short supply amid the latest wave of the virus. 

They clustered around the testing bus, with a lucky few receiving one of the precious kits. One woman who didn’t receive a kit appeared visibly upset. 

Four other buses each giving out 2,000 tests were located in the other four boroughs of the city, with snaps showing a more sedate line waiting to pick one up at the Manhattan location, in Harlem. 

New Yorkers – and many Americans – have been spooked by the latest surge in COVID, which saw the state smash its daily diagnoses record for the third day in a row on Friday. 

Lines of up to six hours have been reported at testing clinics, with many of those tested also forced to wait days longer than the advertised 24 to 48 hours for their result, ruining the Christmas plans of many. 

Crowds gathered around a truck handing out free COVID home tests in Brooklyn Friday, with scores of locals desperate to receive one

Frantic locals reached out their hands in the hopes of getting one of the 2,000 tests being distributed at the Brooklyn location

A woman appeared angry during Friday’s handout on Flatbush Avenue. The bus was one of five stationed across the city’s boroughs on Friday, with each distributing 2,000 Binax tests for free

The crowd’s desperation to receive one of the tests was clear to see, with testing clinics across the city hit by long lines and longer processing times for results

A city worker can be seen preparing to distribute the tests while in blue gloves, as New Yorkers surround the bus during a record-breaking surge of COVID cases in the Big Apple

The scene at the Harlem testing giveaway was markedly calmer

A large queue formed, with each of the five buses dotted across all five of New York’s boroughs handing out 2,000 free tests

A woman donned a face shield and N95 mask to protect herself during the latest COVID surge in NYC

New York shattered its COVID cases record for the third day running, recording an enormous 44,431 new cases on Christmas Eve.

The  numbers were shared by State Governor Kathy Hochul at a Friday morning press conference. She blamed the huge spike on the Omicron variant, estimated to be behind 92% of new infections in the Empire State, and said: ‘This is a very, very contagious variant.’ 

Outgoing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio released separate figures for the Big Apple shortly after Hochul’s announcement, which also made for grim reading.

He said there had been 12,900 new diagnoses across NYC’s five boroughs on Friday, up 12 per cent on the day before, and 17 per cent from Wednesday.

De Blasio, who will be replaced as mayor by Eric Adams on January 31, also  revealed that hospitalizations across the city had risen to 259, up 31 per cent from Thursday.

Hospitalizations are up by 20 per cent week-on-week, although the mayor insists the current numbers are manageable.  

Hochul also struck a note of optimism as she announced: ‘This is not Delta. This is Omicron, which thus far has demonstrated that it’s not as severe in its impact. This is not the same situation we had in March 2020 or even last winter’s surge. We’ve had more testing. We’ve had more opportunities.’

Hochul also revealed that COVID hospitalizations rose by five per cent in a day, and now sit at 4,744. But the governor highlighted that the figure is far fewer than the 7,000 who were hospitalized with the virus during Christmas 2020.   

On Friday, Hochul also said that essential workers in New York now only have to isolate for five days after they test positive for COVID if they’re vaccinated and have suffered a so-called breakthrough infection. She says she is doing so to try and tackle staffing shortages blamed on current 10 day isolation rules. 

The new rule applies to fully vaccinated workers who are asymptomatic, as well as those who suffered mild symptoms, and have not suffered a fever for at least 72 hours.  

NY Governor Kathy Hochul is pictured announcing the latest record-breaking COVID figures on Christmas Eve

Hochul also announced her plans to keep public schools open by using home testing kids

She outlined new booster-focused guidelines to protect elderly residents of care homes 

Hochul also revealed that all visitors to prisons and jails must have been fully-vaccinated or received a recent negative COVID test in an attempt to keep inmates safe. 

People line up for a COVID testing mobile clinic in Harlem on Christmas Eve, amid record-breaking coronavirus diagnoses across the Empire State

Hochul’s announcement came around 18 hours after her Thursday evening update, which saw 38,835 new COVID diagnoses across the Empire State, a record at the time, and up by 10,000 cases from December 22, when 28,924 infections were recorded.

New York is once again America’s COVID epicenter, although hospitalizations remain far lower than they were at the height of the first wave in Spring 2020. 

Back then, around 26 per cent of all people in New York City who tested positive for COVID were admitted to hospital. Now just 2.1 people per 100,000 end up requiring medical treatment. 

 Developing story, check back for updates

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