Atlanta — The United States will require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late Thursday. That makes the U.S. the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain.
Airline passengers from the United Kingdom will have to get negative COVID-19 tests within three days of their trip and provide the results to the airline they intend to use, the CDC said in a statement. The agency said the order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday.
Airlines must deny boarding to any passenger who doesn’t get a test, the CDC said.
“This additional testing requirement will fortify our protection of the American public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel,” the agency said.
The CDC added that, because of travel restrictions in place since March, air travel to the U.S. from the U.K. has already been cut by 90%.
But the new strain may already be in the U.S., doctors are warning.
“We have had people coming from the U.K. for the past few weeks, so why would this virus not jump on the plane with everybody in their blood and in their respiratory secretions?” Dr. Dyan Hes, a pediatrician in New York City, said Tuesday on CBSN.
The new policy is an about-face for the Trump administration, which told U.S. carriers Tuesday it didn’t plan to require any testing for passengers on flights from the U.K.
This week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said three airlines with flights from London to New York – British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic – had agreed to require passengers to take a COVID-19 test before getting on the plane. United Airlines on Thursday agreed to do the same for its flights to Newark, New Jersey.
Last weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a new variant of the coronavirus seemed to spread more easily than earlier ones and was moving rapidly through England. But he stressed “there’s no evidence to suggest it is more lethal or causes more severe illness” or that vaccines will be less effective against it.
The co-founder of BioNTech — one of the companies making vaccines being distributed worldwide this week — has said its version is “highly likely” to work against the U.K. variant.
Britain has been under considerable pressure since the word of the new variant of the virus was made public., leaving the island nation increasingly isolated.
France relaxed its coronavirus-related ban on trucks from Britain on Tuesday after a two-day standoff that had stranded thousands of drivers and raised fears of Christmastime food shortages in the U.K.
French authorities said delivery drivers could enter by ferry or tunnel provided they showed proof of a negative test for the virus.
But the French restrictions were particularly worrisome, given that Britain relies heavily on its cross-Channel commercial links to the continent for food this time of year.