DCR Health & Policy: U.S. will require negative coronavirus test for all airline passengers traveling from the U.K.☕☕☕

Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a policy where passengers have to test negative if traveling from the United Kingdom.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on issued a coronavirus testing mandate for American citizens and others flying from the United Kingdom on Thursday. The move U.S. officials hope will thwart a new faster spreading variant of the virus without banning passenger flights.

The move could affect thousands of travelers per month but it stops short of an outright halt, as dozens of other nations, including Canada, have done.

Passengers must get a viral test meaning one that detects current infections within three days of their flight, according to the Center for Disease control. Travelers are required to provide airlines written documentation of the results. PCR or antigen tests are both considered acceptable. The order will be signed Christmas Day, and will be effective on December 28.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the U.S. should follow the lead of other countries and “halt travel until we know what we’re talking about and we know the facts.” Cuomo had also pressed airlines flying into New York to require testing, and he said this week that British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic had agreed to do so.

British officials have been alarmed at the quick spread of the new variant, and are also concerned about an even faster spreading mutation identified in South Africa. Researchers say there is no evidence either variant of the coronavirus is more deadly, and they’re hopeful existing vaccines will combat them effectively. It is also possible the vaccines could quickly be updated if changes are needed, they said. “Viruses constantly change through mutation, and preliminary analysis in the UK suggests that this new variant may be up to 70% more transmissible than previously circulating variants,” the CDC claims.

Experts said the mutations could already be working their way, undetected, through American communities, where coronavirus testing and the sequencing to track variants is less far reaching than in many other countries. The CDC notes on its website that a negative test result means a person was probably not infected when their sample was taken. But it could also mean “your sample was collected too early in your infection” and you could still become sick.

Due to the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus across the U.S, there has been some debate among officials about whether banning flights made sense from a public health perspective. Federal officials ultimately decided testing was the better approach. More than 328,000 people have died of covid in the U.S.

Trump issued a proclamation partially banning travel from the United Kingdom in March, even though there were numerous exceptions, including for U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as some relatives. Travel fell sharply, but thousands of people have continued to fly to the U.S. from the United Kingdom each month. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics and aviation data firm Cirium, more than 13,600 passengers flew directly from the United Kingdom to the U.S. in June. That figure has continued to climb, and Airlines For America, the industry advocacy group, said total passengers arriving from London’s Heathrow Airport topped 30,000 in November.

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