U.S. Will not Impose COVID-19 Screenings for Flights from Britain

Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus at JFK International Airport in New York City, U.S., December 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo)

The U.S. government does not intend to impose COVID-19 screenings for passengers traveling from Britain after the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus variant there, people briefed on the decision said.

White House coronavirus task force members backed requiring negative pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday, but the Trump administration has decided not to take any action for the time being, the people said.

Much of the world shut their borders to Britain after the discovery of a mutated variant of the novel coronavirus, though the European Union recommended on Tuesday that members roll back sweeping closures to allow freight to resume and people to return home for Christmas.

Several airlines are requiring New York-arriving passengers from the UK to get negative COVID-19 tests within 72 hours of departure after a request from the state’s governor.

The Trump administration has repeatedly refused to issue mandates for many federal COVID-19 safety policies for air travel, making only strong recommendations on issues such as mask wearing. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to mandate masks in interstate air, bus and train travel after taking office on Jan. 20.

The White House in August scuttled an effort to require airlines to collect contact tracing information from U.S.-bound international passengers, Reuters reported.

The White House in July rejected a proposal to require facial coverings at U.S. airports, train and transit stations and onboard airplanes, trains and transit services and earlier dismissed proposals to require temperature checks of airline passengers.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said it is possible the new COVID-19 strain is already in the United States.

“You really need to assume it’s here already,” Fauci said.

Michael Osterholm, a Biden COVID-19 adviser, on Tuesday said all options need to be considered to stem the spread of the new UK variant. He urged the Trump administration to come up with a plan.

“We really need to develop a national response,” he told CNN. “Everything needs to be on the table.”

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