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NEW YORK, NY- Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged three airlines that fly between UK and JFK Airport to voluntarily start screening passengers for COVID-19 amid the development of a new, highly-contagious virus strain.
The discovery of the UK strain prompted 120 countries — but not the U.S. — to institute bans and other restrictions on British travel.
Cuomo on Monday repeated his past call for federal authorities to enact a UK travel ban or, at least, require travelers from Britain to pass COVID-19 tests. He said New York officials like himself are limited in what they can do, so he appealed directly to British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic and asked for them to voluntarily add the state to the list of 120 countries requiring tests.
New York isn’t a country, he acknowledged.
“But as governor of New York State I have asked them to do that,” he said. “We do have a public health emergency in existence in New York State. The British Airways, I have spoken to myself and they have voluntarily agreed to add New York to the 120 countries that will do pre-boarding testing.”
British Airways will begin those tests on Tuesday, Cuomo said. He later said Delta officials agreed to do so as well.
The three airlines combined bring in thousands of passengers a day from the UK to JFK Airport. Cuomo said it could turn into the landing point for a true second wave of coronavirus infections.
The “second wave” in the 1918 influenza pandemic was a similarly-mutated strain of that virus, he said. He said he requested Virgin to voluntarily agree
“If they do not agree voluntarily then New York State will pursue other options,” he said. “But I would not be doing my job as governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency and disaster that cost the lives of New Yorkers.
“I am only a governor but I will do anything I can and whatever I can to protect the people of the state of New York. That is my job. And I know and I believe my intuition is correct that this is another disaster waiting to happen.”