Governor Calls on Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to Join British Airways in Voluntarily Testing Passengers Before Boarding Flights to New York
6,331 Patient Hospitalizations Statewide
1,095 Patients in the ICU; 613 Intubated
Statewide Positivity Rate is 5.75%
109 COVID-19 Deaths in New York State Yesterday
Governor Cuomo: "British Airways, I have spoken to myself and they have voluntarily agreed to add New York to the 120 countries that will do pre-boarding testing. They will start that tomorrow There are two other airlines, Delta and Virgin, I requested for them to voluntarily agree. If they do not agree voluntarily, then New York State will pursue other options. I would not be doing my job as Governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency and disaster that cost the lives of New Yorkers."
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that in the wake of a new, highly contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus found in the United Kingdom, British Airways has voluntarily agreed to require a COVID-19 test before allowing passengers to board planes traveling from the United Kingdom to New York. With this move, New York joins the list of 120 countries with a similar requirement on flights from the U.K. Following this development, the Governor called on Delta Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, the other two airlines which run flights from the U.K. to New York, to follow the lead of British Airways and institute the same testing requirements. The Governor is also continuing to call on the federal government to finally act responsibility and impose travel restrictions, as 120 other countries have done, to avoid the same grave mistakes of the spring where the virus entered New York from Europe with no warning.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
This is very concerning, this new strain that they have found in the UK. The strain, according to Boris Johnson, is 70% more transmittable than the old strain. They don't know if there's any higher rate of death, they don't know if the vaccine is as effective with the new strain. The quote from the UK medical officer was our "working assumption," quote unquote, is that the vaccine works.
The strain is so serious that the UK has closed down again. If the UK believes the strain is so serious that Boris Johnson, who said the week before we're not going to cancel Christmas, we're not going to close, did a 180-degree turn, and then closed parts of the UK, it's serious, my friends, and we are on notice about it.
Why don't we act intelligently for a change? Why don't we mandate testing before people get on the flight, or halt the flights from the UK now? Many other countries have done this. This is not a case of first impression. You have many countries that have just restricted flights from the UK. Many European countries have done it.
Why are we doing nothing? 120 countries require the UK travelers to receive a negative test before they get on the plane in the UK. 120 countries and the United States has done nothing.
People in government often believe doing nothing is safe. Well, if I do nothing, I won't be criticized. I don't believe that. I believe that's exactly wrong. There are situations where doing nothing is actually doing something; where doing nothing is actually an affirmative action. When you do not require the UK flights to be tested, you are allowing thousands of UK passengers to arrive here every day. The authorities say they haven't found the strain here yet. They are science based until they find the strain, they will say there is no strain.
I believe, intuitively, it's already here. I believe that because if it's been flying around the world, it will be here. I say that intuitively because I have an educated intuition because I lived this and you lived this. This was the spring. This is how we had that New York ambush in the first place. This was "don't worry, the coronavirus is in China." No, it wasn't. The coronavirus got on a plane in China and went to Europe and it came here from Europe. Nobody said anything for 2 months in the federal government. It had been coming for so long that it was too late. If this is more transmittable than COVID, 70 times more says Boris Johnson, this is a major problem. For us, to once again be incompetent as a federal government and take more action, is just not a viable option for us in New York. We learned this lesson the hard way and we're not going to go through it again. We have been victimized by federal incompetence and federal negligence. That is a fact. We're not going to be victimized again.
There are 3 airlines that come from the UK and fly in to our airports. Our airports are run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The 3 airlines are British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. They daily are bringing several thousand passengers per day. I am asking those airlines to add New York State to the list of the 120 countries that require tests before the flights leave the UK for New York. 120 countries do it, my request is simple: Please add New York to the list of 120 countries. Well, you're not a country. I know that but as Governor of New York State, I have asked them to do that. We do have a public health emergency in existence in New York State.
The British Airways, I have spoken to myself and they have voluntarily agreed to add New York to the 120 countries that will do pre-boarding testing. They will start that tomorrow. That's the same type of testing that many of the 120 countries on the list have agreed to. I want to thank British Airways. This was a very rapid decision by them. They were considerate and I truly appreciate it. Obviously, British Airways could have taken a different path, but they agreed to be cooperative and they said they will not send flights to JFK unless those people have been tested pre-boarding. Thank you very much.
There are two other airlines, Delta and Virgin, I requested for them to voluntarily agree. If they do not agree voluntarily, then New York State will pursue other options. I would not be doing my job as Governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency and disaster that cost the lives of New Yorkers. I am only a Governor, but I will do anything I can and whatever I can to protect the people of the State of New York. That is my job and I know and I believe my intuition is correct that this is another disaster waiting to happen. If the UK closed down; if 120 countries require testing if Canada left the plane on the tarmac because they wouldn't allow it to de-board; if the other European countries have said that they're banning travel - why are we doing nothing? Why are we doing nothing?
Why did we do nothing in the spring? I'm not going to allow it to happen or I will try my best to do everything within my power. I asked the other two airlines to follow the lead of British Airways. I asked them not to disrespect the people of New York State who are very gracious and good neighbors with the UK, but please don't abuse or disrespect the people of New York. Please don't underestimate the people of New York. We protect one another. I promise you that. Please consider joining voluntarily and we await your answer.