The Trump administration is demanding that travellers from the UK get a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before flying to the US, under new restrictions designed to stop the spread of the new strain of the disease.
The US government announced the measure on Thursday night, becoming the latest country to impose travel restrictions on British travellers since the discovery of the more contagious strain, which has ripped through the south-east of England.
Donald Trump, US president, is due to sign an order putting the restrictions in place on Friday, though they will not take effect until Monday.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement: “This additional testing requirement will fortify our protection of the American public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel.”
The US move comes after several other countries took similar measures to restrict movement from the UK. More than 50 countries have now banned travel from Britain altogether after a warning from Boris Johnson, British prime minister, about the highly infectious coronavirus variant.
Scientists say the new strain is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than others and believe it is responsible for a sudden jump in cases in London and the surrounding counties over the past few days.
France reopened its border earlier this week to anyone who tests negative, after a 48-hour closure which caused huge disruption to British-French freight routes.
The Trump administration had already cut travel from the UK by 90 per cent after imposing an entry ban in March on anyone who had been in Britain during the previous 14 days. That ban does not apply to US citizens however, or anyone who is granted an exemption for reasons of “national interest”.
Some politicians have called on the federal government to tighten the restrictions in recent days, either by banning flights outright or imposing testing requirements.
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, earlier this week accused the Trump administration of failing to act quickly enough to restrict travel from Britain. “This is what happened in the spring. It is déjà vu. It is the same mistake the federal government made that killed thousands of people,” he said.
Under the rules, anyone flying from the UK will be required to take either a polymerase chain reaction test or a more rapid antigen test and provide written confirmation of a negative result to their airline. Airlines will be required to confirm the negative results, and to ban any traveller who refuses to take a test.
Several US air carriers had already announced they were due to impose similar restrictions, including United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.