US should test passengers arriving on international flights for COVID-19: Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Photo courtesy of Governor’s office

The federal government should require all passengers flying into the US from abroad to receive a COVID-19 test before they board their planes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. 

It’s not banning; it’s not impeding,” Cuomo said at his Dec. 23 press conference. “Test before they come.”

Such tests are especially important now that a new, more dangerous strain of COVID-19 has been identified in the UK, Cuomo said.

The mutation — which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson estimated to be 70 percent more contagious — has already been found in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia, and has prompted more than 24 countries to ban passenger travel from the UK.

Cuomo urged the federal government to take similar action by requiring that all international passengers get tested before flying to America.

Every other European country has done it. Just why? Why would you put other people’s lives at this?” he said. “When did government become so bureaucratic and so apathetic and so slow that basic common sense eludes them?”

Cuomo, who has called on the federal government to test all UK travelers for days, persuaded British Airways, Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to test all their US-bound passengers flying from Britain, but only a federal mandate could really stop the spread, he said. 

“My plan can only affect the state of New York,” said Cuomo.

The failure to institute mandatory testing or a COVID-19 travel ban is repeating the same mistakes the government made one year ago, when the virus spread to the United States via international travel, Cuomo added. 

They lost track of the virus,” he said. “And what happened was that the virus got on the plane and flew to Europe … We are doing the same thing again and it makes no sense.” 

During the press conference, Cuomo also announced that the state would extend its coronavirus-related eviction ban, which is set to expire on Jan. 1. 

Under the order, known as the Tenant Safe Harbor Act, landlords cannot evict residential or commercial tenants who were unable to pay rent after March 7, 2019. Cuomo has not yet announced when the extension will expire.

The state legislature, however, may expand its eviction ban to protect also protect people who couldn’t pay rent before March 7, as well as others who are facing a “financial hardship,” according to a NY1 reporter

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