Citing COVID-19 variant in New York, mayor calls for UK travel ban

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Citing the presence of the COVID-19 variant's emergence in New York state, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday called for a full travel ban to and from the United Kingdom.

"The federal government to step up here and ban all travel from the UK and US," he said. "It's time to stop the half measures."

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the case of the more contagious COVID variant was found in Saratoga Springs, New York,

The case was detected in a symptomatic man in his 60s who works at a jewelry store, N. Fox Jewelers.

"Right now, you can get on a plane in London and not even have proof that you have a negative test and merrily come over to New York City and spread the disease," de Blasio said. "Why? Why is that going on? Why, still, after all these challenges and problems, is this madness still going on?"

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Cuomo said the patient had not traveled recently, suggesting community spread, and that three other people associated with the store have tested positive for COVID but that the presence of the variant had not yet been confirmed. The state's lab in Wadsworth is running tests on them now.

"This new variant is tremendously troubling," de Blasio said. "Let's have a travel ban right now, a travel ban from the UK to the US to protect all of us, buy us time."

Cuomo said the state has conducted 5,000 tests for the new strain and suspected if other states tested for it as robustly they, too, would detect it.

"From a public health point of view, it's about contact tracing," Cuomo said. "We have to make sure we are doing everything we can do to effective contact tracing of this case."

The jewelry store was closed from December 24 through Monday, January 4. The state is asking anyone who went to the store from December 18 through December 24 to contact them and get a test immediately.

New York City is planning mass vaccination sites, pending state approval, with the hopes of having two sites up and running by this weekend.

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