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U.S. could require negative COVID-19 tests for passengers from Britain - sources

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. government is considering requiring that all passengers traveling from the United Kingdom receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and U.S. officials briefed on the matter said Monday.

Passengers arrive on a flight from London amid new restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at JFK International Airport in New York City, U.S., December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

A White House coronavirus task force discussed requiring pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday regarding the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain that prompted dozens of countries to close their borders to Britain.

Airline and U.S. officials said requiring testing for UK arrivals won backing among task force members. The White House has yet to make a final decision on the matter, they said.

Earlier, airlines operating flights from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport voluntarily agreed to a request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that they only allow passengers who test negative to fly.

The three airlines - British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic - said they would begin screening passengers on those routes this week.

Major Transatlantic carriers, which have drastically cut flights during the pandemic, have been implementing pilot COVID-19 testing between some U.S. and European cities as a way to create safe “travel corridors” and help reduce quarantines and government restrictions.

Last month, task force members recommended the White House end the restrictions that ban most non-U.S. citizens from entering the United States if they have been in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and the 26 countries in the so-called Schengen border-free area of Europe within the previous two weeks.

Some airline officials hoped the addition of new testing requirements could help suspend the entry restrictions.

On Nov. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations calling for testing before and after international air travel.

CDC last month recommended international air travelers get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before their flight to reduce spread during travel and travelers should get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Stephen Coates

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