U.S. to Require Negative Coronavirus Tests for Airline Passengers From U.K.

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U.S. to Require Negative Coronavirus Tests for Airline Passengers From U.K.

Pedestrians walking in central London, Dec. 23.

Photo: tolga akmen/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Thursday said President Trump would sign an order on Friday requiring all airline passengers on flights from the U.K. to the U.S. to produce a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding.

The U.K. has been grappling with a new strain of the coronavirus believed to be more contagious, leading to many countries imposing restrictions on travel from there in an effort to stem its spread.

Under the new rule, which the CDC said would be applied beginning Monday, U.S.-bound air passengers will have to show they tested negative for the coronavirus within the 72 hours before boarding a flight in the U.K., using either a PCR or antigen test.

Scientists don’t know whether the new coronavirus strain has yet made its way to the U.S. This week, New York health officials began asking hospitals around the state to test for it.

“If it’s here we want to know it—we want to isolate it immediately,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “Chances are, if it’s been moving globally, it came here.”

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Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week he expected the new variant to circulate in the U.S. if it isn’t doing so already. Dr. Fauci brought up the prospect of requiring a recent negative Covid-19 test for passengers from the U.K.

Part of the reason for the uncertainty about the new strain’s presence in the U.S. is that the U.S. has been working more slowly at sequencing viral genomes than the U.K., according to Trevor Bedford, a genomic epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Samples tested so far haven’t detected it, he said earlier this week, adding “it could well be here at low frequency and just not detected yet.”

Epidemiologists and virologists advising the British government say initial evidence indicates the new strain is more contagious than older variants but so far there are no signs it causes more severe cases of Covid-19.

Dozens of countries around the world have moved to curb travel from the U.K.

Earlier this week, the French and British governments reopened their border to trucks from the U.K. after shutting it for 48 hours in an effort to limit the spread of the new strain. The closure had led to lines of thousands of trucks, some carrying fresh produce that was spoiling, on roads leading to English Channel ports.

Since Wednesday, all people traveling to France from the U.K. by any means of transport are required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours, French and U.K. officials have said.

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