State Watch

Cuomo, de Blasio urge federal restrictions on flights from UK

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) are both calling for federal restrictions to be instituted on flights from the United Kingdom amid the emergence of a more contagious coronavirus strain.

The New York officials on Monday called for the U.S. to follow other countries in either banning flights from the U.K. or requiring passengers to be tested before departing the U.K. 

Cuomo called the new strain — estimated to be 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain — “very concerning” during his Monday press briefing, after he requested flights from the U.K. be banned in a Sunday statement, in which he slammed the federal government for inaction.

“Why don’t we act intelligently for a change?” Cuomo asked during his briefing. “Why don’t we mandate testing before people get on the flight or halt the flights from the U.K. now? Many other countries have done this.”

“Why are we doing nothing?” he added. 

The New York governor said the state has requested the three airlines that have direct flights to area airports test their passengers before departure. British Airways agreed to do so, while Delta and Virgin Atlantic have yet to decide. 

But Cuomo warned that delayed action could lead to the strain making its way to the U.S. as thousands of U.K. passengers come every day.

“The authorities say they haven’t found the strain here yet,” Cuomo said. “They are science-based until they find the strain they will say there is no strain. I believe intuitively it’s already here. I believe that because if it’s been flying around the world, it will be here.”

De Blasio also called attention to the U.K.’s strain during his Monday press briefing, saying it makes him “even more worried” about the effects of holiday travel in the city.

“It’s really in my view it’s time for a travel ban from Europe given what we’re seeing with this new strain or at minimum a requirement that anyone getting on a plane has proof that they have a negative test if they’re coming out of Europe,” de Blasio said. 

“We need to be aggressive,” he added. “This is a decisive moment. If we get it right now, if we’re careful during the holidays and we give time for the vaccine to be distributed we can really turn the corner.”

More than 40 countries have banned U.K. arrivals into their nations, including several European countries that announced the restrictions on Sunday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed a planned loosening of restrictions for the holiday due to the uptick in new cases with the new strain. 

Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for surgeon general, said Sunday that the strain does not appear any deadlier. 

New York state and New York City were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring. But in December, the state has reached spring levels of new COVID-19 cases confirmed each day, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Coronavirus Coronavirus testing coronavirus travel restrictions COVID-19 COVID-19 testing Joe Biden New York New York City Pandemic U.K. U.K. flight bans United Kingdom Vivek Murthy

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