New Covid strain: US could require negative Covid-19 tests for passengers from Britain

Washington/Chicago - Airline and US officials said requiring testing for UK arrivals won backing among task force members

By Reuters

Published: Tue 22 Dec 2020, 7:39 AM

The US government is considering requiring that all passengers travelling from the United Kingdom receive a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and US officials briefed on the matter said on Monday.

A White House coronavirus task force discussed requiring pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday regarding the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain that prompted dozens of countries to close their borders to Britain.

Airline and US officials said requiring testing for UK arrivals won backing among task force members. The White House has yet to make a final decision on the matter, they said.

Earlier, airlines operating flights from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport voluntarily agreed to a request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that they only allow passengers who test negative to fly.

The three airlines - British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic - said they would begin screening passengers on those routes this week.

Major Transatlantic carriers, which have drastically cut flights during the pandemic, have been implementing pilot Covid-19 testing between some US and European cities as a way to create safe “travel corridors” and help reduce quarantines and government restrictions.

Last month, task force members recommended the White House end the restrictions that ban most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States if they have been in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and the 26 countries in the so-called Schengen border-free area of Europe within the previous two weeks.

Some airline officials hoped the addition of new testing requirements could help suspend the entry restrictions.

On Nov. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations calling for testing before and after international air travel.

CDC last month recommended international air travelers get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before their flight to reduce spread during travel and travelers should get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days.

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