One of the essential tools in fighting the spread of the coronavirus has been fast cheap, and reliable testing. Several companies have proposed just such tests, and offered to get them to people in great supply, and low cost.

The Food and Drug Administration has been standing in the way, demanding a doctor’s prescription for any home test and that prescriptions not be given unless people showed clear symptoms of having the virus.

That’s now changing, as the government said it’s “buying 8.5 million rapid coronavirus tests that can be taken at home without a prescription and that yield immediate results.”

While that number of tests won’t fill the broader testing needs of the entire country, it’s a start. The much bigger issue is why it took so long to do even this. As the Cato Institute’s Jeffrey Singer writes:

…the FDA has a history of restricting the public from at‐​home tests that directly provide them with information about their health status—ranging from at‐​home pregnancy tests to at‐​home HIV tests to at‐​home salivary diagnostic genetic tests. The FDA is paternalistically concerned that autonomous adults may improperly apply the information they learn about themselves—an overly‐​broad interpretation of its responsibility to assure the “safety” and “efficacy” of newly developed tests.

It is good that we will finally get to see at‐​home tests make their way to the general public. It is a shame that the public needlessly waited so long.

Another instance of government failure in the face of an immediate crisis? It sure looks that way.