At least 25 flights are scheduled to arrive in New York City from London on Monday alone despite UK travel being banned by 32 countries over a new strain of COVID-19 that is 70 percent more infectious than what has currently been seen.
According to JFK’s website, 24 flights were scheduled from Heathrow on Monday alone from nine airlines. All are being operated by British Airways, Delta or Virgin Atlantic. There was also a United Airlines flight from Heathrow to Newark that landed at lunchtime.
Currently, travelers can only enter the US from the UK or continental Europe with an exemption. Generally if a person has been in Europe, Iran, China and or the UK in the last 14 days, they cannot get into the country as per Trump’s March executive order. American citizens and greencard holders can get back into the country.
Once they arrive in New York, the state law is that they test negative within 72 hours of arrival, quarantine for three days and then test negative again on the fourth day, or quarantine for 14 days. The CDC guidance for people coming from overseas is that they quarantine for 14 days, if they can get into the country at all
But it has not stopped dozens of flights from the UK arriving in the US every day and comes as the worrying new variant spreads.
Thirty-two countries have now banned flights from the UK entirely because of the strain and 120 countries are demanding that travelers from the UK test negative before they are allowed to board planes.
On Monday, New York Governor Andrew said the new strain was likely already in the US and that it was a ‘serious problem’.
He previously asked the federal government to ban travel from the UK but, having been ignored, is now appealing to the airlines to test passengers before they leave. British Airways has agreed. He is waiting for Delta and Virgin Atlantic to agree too, he said.
‘I have no legal authority on international travel. Only CBP has that jurisdiction, that’s my issue here – I can’t halt flights. However, you’re landing on New York soil…my preference would be what the other countries did – halt travel.
‘If you can’t do that, negative test required before they get on the flight,’ he said.
‘This is very concerning. They don’t know if there’s any higher rate of death, if the vaccine is as effective with the new strain.
‘This is take two. This would be a mutated virus, coming back….if they believe it’s so serious that Boris Johnson did a 180 degree turn and then closed parts of the UK, it’s serious, my friends.
‘We are on notice about it – why don’t we act intelligently for a change?
‘Why don’t we mandate testing or halt the flights now. Many other countries have done this,’ he said.
The new variant has now been detected in Australia, Denmark, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, Italy, UK.
It is not thought to be any deadlier than the more common strain but is far more spreadable and has sent the UK into an intense lockdown with just five days before Christmas.
Cuomo said that he refused to allow New York to become a ‘victim’ again through lack of federal action.
‘For us to be incompetent and take no action, it’s just not a viable option for us in New York.
‘We learned this the hard way and aren’t going to go through it again. We have been victimized.
‘There are three airlines that come from the UK – British Airways, Delta and Virgin. They, daily, are bringing several thousand passengers a day.
‘I am asking those airlines to add New York state to the list of the 120 countries that require tests before the flights leave the UK. My request is simple – please add New York to the list of countries. I know we’re not a country but as governor of New York state, I’ve asked them to do that.
‘British Airways, I have spoken to myself and they have voluntarily agreed to add New York to the 120 countries that will do pre-boarding testing.
‘They’ll start that tomorrow,’ he said.
Travel to and from London was suspended on Saturday night which triggered a mad dash of travelers to train stations.
There is no travel allowed between England and Scotland. Much of Europe is now sealing off the UK too.
Travel has been banned to France, which sparked a sudden threat to food supply and sent people into a panic-buying frenzy in supermarkets.
Trump’s surgeon general and President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for the position both have said they don’t see heightened danger from the virus mutation.
‘We don’t even know if it’s really more contagious yet or not, or if it just happened to be a strain that was involved in a super-spreader event,’ Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on ‘Face the Nation’.
‘Right now, we have no indications that it is going to hurt our ability to continue vaccinating people or that it is any more dangerous or deadly than the strains that are out there and we currently know about.’
Dr Vivek Murthy, Mr Biden’s pick for the surgeon general post, echoed Mr Adams’s comments.
‘While it seems to be more easily transmissible, we do not have evidence, yet, that this is more a deadly virus to an individual who acquires it, there’s no reason to believe the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well,’ Dr Murthy said.
Mr Slaoui and Mr Giroir’s comments followed reports on Friday that Mr Trump is considering lifting America’s travel ban on the UK and Europe as early as next week.
Mr Trump is expected to authorize the lifting of the travel ban through an executive order on Tuesday, The Telegraph reported, citing senior sources in the travel industry.
Yet on Sunday a slew of countries banned travel from the UK. Canada announced a ban last night on passenger planes in a notice to pilots.
The restrictions do not apply to cargo planes or planes landing for safety reasons, according to the notice to airmen, which said the move is ‘necessary for aviation safety and the protection of the public.’
In Britain, ahead of a meeting of the Cobra committee today chaired by the Prime Minister, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said emergency measures were being put in place to cope with a backlog of lorries heading for the channel ports.
But he sought to play down the potential impact, stressing that container freight was not hit by the French ban on travellers.
The markets tumbled in response to the escalating coronavirus crisis and the looming prospect of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period on December 31.
More than £33billion was wiped off the FTSE 100 within minutes of opening, as the index dropped more than 2 per cent, although it later recovered to a fall of around 1.4 per cent.
Along with France, countries across the world announced restrictions on UK travel following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread across south-east England.
Italian authorities said the mutant strain had been detected in a traveler who recently returned to the country from the UK.
French health minister Olivier Veran said it was already ‘entirely possible’ the new variant – VUI 202012/01 – was already circulating there, although tests had not detected it.
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