Andrew Cuomo slams US for negligence, says UK's mutant Covid variant is ‘getting on a plane and flying to JFK’
America is monitoring the new strain of Covid-19 that has been detected in the UK, US officials have said. However, while some countries have announced plans to restrict travel from the UK due to concerns over the new variant, the US has not taken a similar decision yet. Stating that the US inaction to impose a ban or even mandate testing of all travelers from the UK is ‘reprehensible,’ and 'grossly negligent,' New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo has called on the federal government to take measures in the wake of this new variant circulating in the UK. He argued that while 120 countries demand that before people get on a flight in the UK to come to their country they have to test negative for coronavirus, the US does not require one.
The governor suggested that the federal government should consider multiple restrictions in the wake of the new coronavirus variant, including imposing mandatory testing of individuals traveling from the UK on flights to the US, as well as a new travel ban from Europe. He emphasized that the actions being recommended by him have taken into account lessons learned from March when the federal government was late to impose a European travel ban “allowing the virus to spread uncontrollably throughout New York State and the country.”
“We have about 6 flights a day coming in from the UK and we have done absolutely nothing. Now, to me, this is reprehensible because this is what happened in the spring. Right now, this variant in the UK is getting on a plane and flying to JFK. Right now, today. 120 countries require a test, we don’t. Other European countries have done a ban, we haven’t, and today that variant is getting on a plane and landing in JFK. How many times in life do you have to make the same mistake before you learn? Be one of the 120 countries that require a test before they get on the plane to come to the US,” Cuomo said during a briefing. He added, “This is the mistake we made. Where is HHS (Health and Human Services)? Where is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)? Where is the NIH (National Institutes of Health)? All it takes is one person. All it takes is one. The Port Authority has no authority to ban passengers, health monitor passengers, it’s federal.”
According to Cuomo, every day the federal government does nothing on this problem, they end up accelerating the crisis. “Doing nothing is negligent; it’s grossly negligent just like the spring because doing nothing is doing something...They allowed another 6 flights to come into New York. Sometimes in life doing nothing is doing something, and this is one of those times and that’s what they did in the spring,” he added.
Last week, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock informed that a new variant of coronavirus has been identified, which may be associated with the faster spread in the southeast of England. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also said that this new variant “may be up to 70% more transmissible” than the original version of the disease. Coronaviruses are known to mutate, but much about this variant remains unknown. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been notified and the variant is being studied by Public Health England (PHE) at its Porton Down facility, noted Hancock.
The virus has not been detected in the US, but officials are watching for developments. “We don’t know yet. We are, of course...looking very carefully into this,” Dr Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Currently, no strain of the virus appears to be resistant to the vaccines available, Slaoui said. “This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity,” he added.
When asked whether the US plans to follow the example of other countries that have suspended flights from the UK, assistant US health secretary Admiral Brett Giroir told ABC’s “This Week” that he does not believe “we need to do that yet.” “Viruses mutate. We’ve seen almost 4,000 different mutations among this virus. There is no indication that the mutation right now that they’re talking about is overcoming England. I read the British medical journals this morning. It’s up to 20% of cases in one county. Aside from that, it is very low,” he explained.
Giroir said it is not yet known whether this new variant is more dangerous. “And very importantly, we have not seen a single mutation yet that would make it evade the vaccine. Can’t say that won’t happen in the future. But right now, it looks like the vaccine should cover everything that we see. So I don’t think there should be any reason for alarm right now. We continue to watch. That's what we do,” he added.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams informed that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the CDC, and the WHO are investigating the new strain. He said that while it is not unusual for viruses to mutate, it highlights the importance of remaining vigilant and following public health guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands. “Well, very important for people to know that viruses mutate all the time, and that does not mean that this virus is any more dangerous. We don’t even know if it’s really more contagious yet or not or if it just happened to be a strain that was involved in a superspreader event. Right now, we have no indications that it is going to hurt our ability to continue vaccinating people or that it is any more dangerous or deadly than the strains that are currently out there and that we know about,” Adams said on CBS’ 'Face the Nation'.
Dr Vivek Murthy, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 task force and his nominee to take on the role of the surgeon general, shared Adams' view that the mutation does not yet appear to affect coronavirus vaccinations. “This news from the UK is that they have a strain of the virus that according to the UK appears to be more transmissible, more contagious than the virus that we’ve seen circulating prior to this. While it seems to be more easily transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it. There’s no reason to believe that the vaccines that have been developed will not be effective against this virus as well,” Murthy told NBC’s 'Meet the Press'.