Earlier this week, several European countries issued travel bans after a COVID-19 variant was found in the United Kingdom. Now, the U.S. government is pondering whether it should follow suit.
In a report from Reuters, airline and government officials briefed on the situation say the U.S. is leaning towards requiring all passengers traveling from the U.K. to prove that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure. If they can’t, they won’t be entering the U.S. -- simple as that.
Waiting on a decision from Washington
The only thing in the way is getting the White House’s coronavirus task force to sign off on the decision. The task force’s buy-in appears to be nothing more than a formality, but there’s been no indication thus far about whether the president approves or disapproves of the move.
The task force discussed requiring pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday when news of the highly infectious coronavirus strain in the U.K. was breaking. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided not to wait on word from D.C. and moved to protect his own backyard.
On Monday, Cuomo got British Airways, Delta Air Lines, and Virgin Atlantic to voluntarily agree to only allow passengers who test negative to fly from London to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The CDC weighs in
In late November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its recommendations regarding international air travel -- suggesting that travelers get tested 1-3 days before their flight and 3-5 days after travel, plus stay home for an additional 7 days.
However, the agency has yet to make official recommendations for flights coming from the U.K. to the U.S. as they relate to news of the variant, preferring to take a more cautious position.
In a statement on its website published Tuesday, the agency said that its scientists are studying the variant to get a handle on how easily it can be transmitted and whether or not the currently authorized vaccines will protect people against it.
“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. Information regarding the virologic, epidemiologic, and clinical characteristics of the variant are rapidly emerging. CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is monitoring the situation closely. CDC will communicate new information as it becomes available,” the agency wrote.