US requires tests for UK flyers on worry over Covid variant

(Bloomberg) — The US will require passengers flying from the UK to show proof of a negative test for coronavirus, amid rising concerns over a more-contagious Covid-19 strain that is spreading after first emerging in England.

Travellers arriving from the UK need to get a negative polymerase chain reaction or antigen test no more than 72 hours before leaving, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said the order will be signed by President Donald Trump on Friday and come into effect Dec. 28.

Regions from Hong Kong to Canada have temporarily suspended travel from the UK as the new coronavirus variant alarmed scientists and governments around the world. Early analysis suggests it may be as much as 70% more transmissible than other circulating strains.

Passengers from the UK must provide written documentation of their test to their airline, according to the CDC statement. Carriers must confirm the negative result for all passengers boarding, and deny entry to those who don’t take a test. The CDC said earlier this week that the new variant described in the UK could already be circulating in the US undetected.

Governments around the world are also taking action as a fast-spreading variant sweeps through South Africa, with the UK banning flights from that country. Hong Kong banned all recent travellers from South Africa and extended a mandatory quarantine for most other visitors in an attempt to prevent a spread of Covid-19 cases in the city.

South Africa, meanwhile, has pushed back against the UK, rejecting allegations that a new Covid variant was contributing to a second wave of UK infections.

A new virus variant that was detected in the UK has a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African strain, known as 501.V2, but they are “two completely independent lineages,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Thursday.

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