NEW YORK (NEWS10) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that in the wake of a new, highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus found in the U.K., Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Delta Airlines have voluntarily agreed to require a COVID-19 test before allowing passengers to board planes traveling from the U.K to New York.
With this move, New York joins the list of 120 countries with a similar requirement on flights from the U.K.
“The strain, according to Boris Johnson, is 70% more transmissible than the old strain,” Cuomo said. “They don’t know if there’s any higher rate of death, they don’t know if the vaccine is as effective with the new strain. The quote from the UK medical officer was our “working assumption” is that the vaccine works.”
Gov. Cuomo is concerned about flights arriving from the United Kingdom into other United States cities. He believes federally imposed travel restrictions will avoid a transmission similar to the one in the spring where the virus entered New York from Europe without warning. The Governor said if passengers coming from the U.K. arrive in other American cities and enter New York by other means, this could potentially bring the new strain into the state.
As of Dec. 19, Johnson imposed a new, stricter level of COVID restrictions on London and much of southern England to curb rapidly spreading infections, according to the Associated Press. Johnson said that the capital and large areas in southern England moved into a newly created Tier 4 of the country’s COVID alert system that required all non-essential shops, hairdressers and indoor leisure venues to close after the end of business hours Saturday, December 19.