CDC says all U.K. air travelers to U.S. need negative Covid tests as mutant virus emerges

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The U.S. will require all air passengers arriving from the United Kingdom to test negative for Covid-19 before their departure after the identification in the U.K. of new coronavirus variants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the change late Thursday, saying in a statement that President Donald Trump would sign an order Friday to take effect Monday.

“The public health authorities in the United Kingdom recently announced the discovery of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC said in a statement. “Preliminary analysis in the U.K. suggests that this new variant may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than previously circulating variants.”

A similar requirement for negative tests has already been in effect for many U.S.-bound travelers. Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways said Monday that travelers would have to test negative for the coronavirus before boarding flights bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, in response to a request from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This additional testing requirement will fortify our protection of the American public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel,” the CDC said.

Dozens of countries — including Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Iran and Colombia — suspended flights from the U.K. earlier this week, reflecting worldwide concern about virus mutations that may be more contagious than other variants.

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The U.K. government imposed tough new restrictions last weekend after scientists said that a new coronavirus variant was spreading more quickly. Then on Wednesday, the British government announced that yet another variant had been detected in two people who had recently traveled from South Africa, adding to the concern.

The CDC said it would require evidence of a negative result from a test “no more than 72 hours before departure.” It will be up to the airlines to confirm results before boarding, and to deny boarding to any passenger who chooses not to take a test, the CDC said.

David Ingram

David Ingram covers tech for NBC News.

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