Fauci calls on federal government to mandate COVID tests on flights from the UK

Dr Anthony Fauci on Tuesday morning said it was under 'active discussion' that testing on transatlantic flights be mandated

Dr Anthony Fauci on Tuesday morning said it was under ‘active discussion’ that testing on transatlantic flights be mandated 

Dr. Fauci on Tuesday called on the federal government to mandate COVID tests on all flights from the UK after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made a plea to airlines to introduce it and California’s Governor Gavin Newsom said he was considering it. 

The sudden panic over flights from the UK has been caused by a new strain of COVID-19 that experts fear is 70 percent more infectious than what has previously been seen. It was detected in the UK in September and has since been found in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Gibraltar. 

While no cases in the US have been confirmed yet, Dr. Fauci echoed other scientists’ comments on Tuesday morning that it was most likely already here. 

On Monday, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo convinced British Airways, Delta and Virgin to start mandating that passengers must test negative for COVID before they can board flights to New York City. Delta and Virgin say they will also enforce it on flights to Atlanta. 

But there are dozens of other flights every day between the UK and the US which remain unchecked. 

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. Delta and Virgin also offer one-stop flights to Orlando but tests are not yet required on those flights. 

Cuomo on Monday said he would prefer that the US banned all flights from the UK temporarily but that in the absence of action from the federal government, it was the best he could do to try to stop the new strain from spreading. California Governor Newsom said afterwards that he too was considering a similar measure but that he wanted the federal government to take action too.  

Dr Fauci, speaking on Good Morning America, said it was likely that testing on all transatlantic flights would become mandatory. 

‘You really need to assume it ‘s here already. It’s certainly not the dominant strain but I would not be surprised at all if it’s already here.  

‘Travel bans are really rather draconian. There is certain consideration throughout about the possibility and likelihood of requiring the testing of individuals before they board a plane to the United States. 

‘That is under active discussion. The governor of New York is already doing that. That’s a big difference between shutting off travel completely which is really a rather dramatic step. 

‘That’s not really in the cards right now but I wouldn’t be surprised if the requirement of testing is something that is being actively considered right now,’ he said.

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 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

Passengers arrive at JFK's Terminal 4 on Monday and make a break for the city without being tested for COVID. There were national guardsmen checks inside where people were asked to fill out their information

Passengers arrive at JFK’s Terminal 4 on Monday and make a break for the city without being tested for COVID. There were national guardsmen checks inside where people were asked to fill out their information 

National Guard screen people at JFK airport on Dec 21 2020 as passengers arrive from overseas. It's unclear what they were asking them. The state law in NY is that people arriving from other states test negative 72 hours within arriving, quarantine for three days and then test negative again on the fourth day. The CDC guidance for people coming from overseas is that they quarantine for 14 days, if they can get into the country at all

National Guard screen people at JFK airport on Dec 21 2020 as passengers arrive from overseas. It’s unclear what they were asking them. The state law in NY is that people arriving from other states test negative 72 hours within arriving, quarantine for three days and then test negative again on the fourth day. The CDC guidance for people coming from overseas is that they quarantine for 14 days, if they can get into the country at all

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

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 

Virgin, Delta and British Airways all said on Monday that they would start mandating tests on flights from the UK to New York City.  They won’t do the tests themselves; passengers must obtain the test within 72 hours before they board the plane. 

WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING

British Airways

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 NYC and Atlanta. 

No mandatory tests on other flights. The airline also operates flights to Orlando and one-stop routes to other US cities  

United Airlines

No mandatory COVID-19 tests on any flights. 

Twice daily flights from London to the US scheduled for 2021 

American Airlines 

Partner with BA. No mandatory tests on flights

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British Airways is insisting on the negative tests from Tuesday but only on planes from London to New York City. 

Delta and Virgin will impose their mandate starting on Christmas Eve and will also impose the rule on their flights from London to Atlanta. 

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 has not indicated yet whether or not it plans to impose mandatory tests – the airline has not responded to multiple requests for information. 

Cuomo, on Monday night, pleaded with the federal government to adopt the same rules. 

‘We have an agreement now with the three airlines but the point is bigger than just New York. We have been worried about a mutation of the virus. That’s what everybody’s been worried about.

‘You have 120 countries that have required no one comes from the UK unless they test negative and the US has done nothing.  

‘I acted proactively for New York, I have the airlines that are flying into New York, but we’ve learned this lesson before. That’s what’s frustrating. 

‘The way we got COVID in the Spring. The federal government thought the virus was in China. 

‘Yes, the people who fly into New York will be negative but we’ll have flights into Chicago, we’ll have flights into other parts of the country… those people will get on flights. 

‘This whole notion that any one state can protect itself was foolish from the beginning,’ he told CNN.  

He added that scientists like Fauci are more cautious than he or other politicians, saying: ‘A scientist wants to see a flame before they tell you there’s a fire. I see smoke, I douse the spot in water.’ 

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

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 

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

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

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for a ban on all travel from Britain to the US

California Governor Gavin Newsom

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for a ban on all travel from Britain to the US as is California Governor Gavin Newsom but Fauci says it would be pointless

Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the FDA, told CNBC that the new strain 'is already in the US' and that a travel ban would not keep it out

Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the FDA, told CNBC that the new strain ‘is already in the US’ and that a travel ban would not keep it out

Newsom said on Monday: ‘I hope the federal government takes action in this space. They should. 

‘We’ve seen Canada, we’ve seen so many other jurisdictions around the world that have. 

‘In the absence of that, we’ll be pursuing different strategies on testing and quarantine and those have been activated in terms of those conversations. 

‘As soon as I have more information, I’ll share that information with you.’ 

It begs the question of why this step wasn’t taken sooner and why the airlines aren’t imposing the tests on all of their flights around the world. 

In March and April, at the height of the pandemic in New York City, testing was difficult to come by which is likely the explanation.

Rapid tests, which are now the most commonly used but are not as accurate as the notorious swabs, were almost non-existent. 

Now, some are asking why mandatory rapid tests aren’t the rule on every flight.

Others say mandatory COVID testing on flights will do nothing because a) rapid tests are not as reliable as people may think they are and b) a person can easily catch COVID in between the time they take the test and when they board the flight. 

The border between Europe and America has been closed to non-citizens or exempted people since President Trump’s March 21 executive order.  

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