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There’s a highly contagious new coronavirus strain spreading in parts of the U.K., and it has prompted several countries to close their borders to Brits.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday is also taking action by asking several airlines to require negative COVID tests for travelers flying into New York from the United Kingdom
“I have no authority on international travel,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in Albany. “I can’t halt flights, I call on the U.S. government to do it.”
Cuomo has asked Virgin, British Airways and Delta to require a negative COVID-19 test from passesngers before boarding a flight to his state, per New York Daily News.
“I’m only a governor, but I will do anything I can to protect the people of the state of New York,” Cuomo added.
More than 120 countries require U.K. travelers to provide proof of a negative test while 40 have banned Brits from entering altogether, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has noted that this new COVID strain sweeping through the UK is already in America.
“I believe intuitively, it is already here. Because if it has been flying around the world, it is already here,” he said. “I say that because I’ve lived this. You’ve lived this. This was the spring.”
Here’s more from TIME.com:
And the new strain has been detected in Denmark, Australia and Gibraltar, according to the British government; and in Italy and the Netherlands, according to media reports.
The strain was first detected by scientists in early December, according to the U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
By Dec. 19, scientific advisers to the U.K. government said they had “moderate confidence” that the variant was more transmissible than others, based on several factors including the exponential increase in infections despite lockdown measures.
Researchers now believe a mutation to the genes that code for COVID-19’s spike protein, the part of the virus that clings to human cells allowing for infection, likely causes its increased transmissibility, according to a study published Dec. 18
Meanwhile, nearly 40.000 New Yorkers have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is entirely done by medical professionals,” Cuomo said. “We get the vaccine, we distribute the vaccine to a regional hub hospital. That hospital does the vaccinations for that region. We define the categories of people who are eligible; phase 1A, phase 1B, etc. and we follow federal advice on that.”