Passengers arriving in New York City on Virgin flights from the United Kingdom said they didn’t have to take a COVID test before boarding Tuesday, despite the discovery of a new mutant strain of the virus in Britain that is 70 percent more infectious.
On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK.
Several other countries responded to the news of the highly transmissible strain’s discovery by closing their borders to the UK, while more than 120 other nations are now requiring British travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.
Aggrieved that the US government has so far taken neither action, Cuomo persuaded three airlines – British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic – to mandate COVID tests for passengers coming to Big Apple from the UK.
British Airways’ mandate commenced Tuesday. Delta and Virgin’s, meanwhile, will begin on Thursday.
Passengers arriving at JFK from Britain on Tuesday told DailyMail.com they were surprised at the lack of screening prior to boarding their flight, considering the emergence of the mutant strand.
Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about any symptoms he may have been suffering from or potential exposure.
‘They didn’t ask me anything,’ he said. ‘There was really nothing to that effect.’
Anatoly Grablevsky, 19, said airport officials in London Heathrow didn’t screen him with any pre-boarding questions about his health or potential symptoms
A cluster of passengers spill out from JFK’s Terminal 4 on Tuesday, shortly after a Virgin Atlantic flight arrived from London Heathrow
On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called it ‘reprehensible’ and ‘grossly negligent’ that the federal government isn’t acting to address the new strain of coronavirus circulating in the UK
Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been brought into effect.
WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING
Mandatory COVID-19 tests on all flights to NYC starting December 22.
No mandatory tests on all other flights. The airline also flies to LA, Dallas, Houston, Chicago and Miami
Delta and Virgin
Mandatory tests on all flights to the US, starting with NYC and Atlanta from December 24.
Travelers will be required to take a LAMP or PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure adding another layer of safety when they travel.
The airline also operates flights to Orlando and one-stop routes to other US cities
They are telling people with flights booked to monitor their website for information.
No mandatory COVID-19 tests on any flights.
Twice daily flights from London to the US scheduled for 2021
Partner with BA. No mandatory tests on flights
The 19-year-old reiterated his surprise, however, at the seeming lack of safeguarding before he boarded his flight bound for the US.
‘People in the UK are very worried about [the new virus strain]. All of Europe is worried – and I was worried.
‘But I was surprised there was nothing really at the airport about it at all.’
Grablevsky said customs officials took down his details when he deplaned in JFK and was told the state would be in touch.
He said he received a text that required him to acknowledge that he understands he must now quarantine for 14 days.
Similarly, Brian Austin also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
He said there was around 110 passengers onboard, all of whom were also not required to take a COVID test.
Austin didn’t speak to the pre-boarding protocol in the UK, however insisted he felt ‘very safe’ aboard the flight, and when he arrived in the US.
‘They went overboard with sanitation, they provided disinfectant wipes and they were seen to be disinfecting surfaces throughout – so we felt safe.
‘Also arriving here we felt it was a very safe experience. Officials were emphasizing masks, emphasizing hand sanitizer and so on – so we’re happy travelers.’
On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would be locking down London and parts of southeast England due to a new strain of the coronavirus, which scientists say is 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain. There is no evidence to suggest it’s more deadly.
Cuomo voiced outrage Monday that, considering New York currently has ‘about six flights a day’ coming in from the UK, the White House has so far done ‘absolutely nothing’ to either cut off travel to Britain, or mandate testing for British travelers.
‘To me this is reprehensible because this is what happened in the spring,’ he added, referring to the fact that COVID-19 entered the country earlier this year via travelers from Europe.
‘Doing nothing is negligent. It’s grossly negligent,’ he added.
Brian Austin (pictured with his wife, Dawn) also arrived in the Big Apple from London on a Virgin Atlantic flight. He said there was around 110 passengers onboard his flight
Grablevsky flew back home to the US with Virgin Atlantic. He confirmed he wasn’t required to disclose evidence of a negative test as the mandate has not yet been introduced
Travelers look at Covid-19 results after being tested inside JFK International airport in New York on December 22, 2020
Oore Adegbite, right, arrives at JFK International Airport after flying from London on Tuesday
Admiral Brett Giroir, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force in charge of testing, told ABC News on Sunday that he doesn’t believe a travel ban on the UK is necessary yet.
‘I read the British medical journals this morning, it’s up to 20 percent of cases in one county, aside from that it is very low and we don’t know that it is more dangerous,’ Giroir told the network. ‘I don’t think there should be any reason for alarm right now.’
In addition to currently opposing a total ban on all UK travel, the US government reportedly also currently has no intentions of imposing mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all flights arriving from Britain, as Cuomo has urged.
According to Reuters, 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.
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 some travel.
Canada is implementing enhanced measures to screen travelers from Britain, including those arriving from other nations, its public safety minister said on Tuesday.
While British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic voluntarily agreed to Cuomo’s request to only allow passengers who test negative to board flights to NYC, dozens of other flights every day between the UK and the US remain unchecked.
The US still has the highest number of COVID cases and deaths in the world but the UK has a higher number of deaths per capita. Belgium is the worst
In addition to currently opposing a total ban on all UK travel, the US government reportedly also currently has no intentions of imposing mandatory COVID-19 screenings for all flights arriving from Britain
BA operates daily flights from London to L.A.X. and next week they cost as little as £200. The airline also flies direct to Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Miami. Passengers will not be required to provide negative test prior to boarding any of the aforementioned flights.
Delta and Virgin also offer one-stop flights to Orlando but tests are not yet required on those flights yet either. The airline says it will enforce testing on all US-bound flights eventually, but they haven’t said when it’ll go into effect on non NYC or Atlanta flights.
United – which operates two daily flights between Heathrow and Newark – said it wasn’t going to change its rules because the federal government hadn’t insisted on it yet.
‘No additional changes are being made at this time but we will continue to monitor the situation,’ a spokesman told DailyMail.com.
American Airlines enforces testing ‘if the destination insists on it’.
A British Airways plane arriving at JFK on Monday, one of dozens that flew in throughout the day, while more than 40 other countries cut off British travel
A global air traffic map shows dozens of flights over the Atlantic on Monday including many from London to JFK while more countries cut the UK off over the new strain of COVID-19
Britain’s infection rate, in yellow, has rebounded sharply since the end of a national lockdown at the start of December – a resurgence blamed on the new variant of Covid-19 which has left the UK isolated by a series of travel bans. The US infection rate is still higher than in Britain, with some scientists and politicians saying America should also stop flights from the UK
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.
Speaking on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it is possible the new COVID-19 variant 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.’