"In effort to strengthen existing travel protocols with our partners at United, beginning Monday, December 28, all United customers with flights originating in the U.K. will be required to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test obtained within 72 hours of departure for incoming flights to Newark Liberty International Airport," Governor Phil Murphy said. "As we continue to experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases, it's critical that we take any and all precautions to mitigate the potential for further transmission. While New Jersey continues to strongly discourage all non-essential travel at this time, if unavoidable, international travelers should adhere to CDC guidance for pre- and post-flight testing and the recommended self-quarantine period."
Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Delta Air Lines have all agreed to test passengers coming to New York City from the UK, after Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned why six flights are arriving at JFK Airport daily from the UK with no additional precautionary measures in place.
"This is very concerning, this new strain they have found in the U.K.," Cuomo said during a briefing. "The strain, according to (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson, is 70% more transmittable. They don't know if there is any higher rate of death. They don't know if the vaccine is as effective with the new strain. 'A working assumption' is that the vaccine works."
Virgin Atlantic has since announced that all travelers flying from Heathrow Airport to the United States will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result before departure.
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Cuomo said 120 countries now require a negative test before arriving from the UK, and some European countries have begun closing their borders.
United Airlines released the following statement on travel to New Jersey and other cities in the U.S. that have made similar requests.
"Beginning December 28, United customers traveling from London Heathrow to Chicago, Newark, Washington Dulles and San Francisco will be required to present proof a negative COVID-19 test taken no later than 72 hours prior to departure," it read. "The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority. United has been a leader in enacting new policies and innovations designed to keep employees and passengers safer when traveling including mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a 'Ready-to-Fly' checklist before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms."
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Passengers under the age of 5 are exempt, as are individuals connecting into Heathrow from another country.
United is currently operating four daily flights from London to its hubs in Chicago, Newark, Washington and San Francisco. Beginning in January 2021, the airline will operate two daily flights from London to hubs in Newark and Chicago.
Same-day, pre-flight rapid tests are also available for ticketed passengers at the Collinson testing center located in Terminal 2 at London Heathrow.
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