NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Health officials are raising concerns about new COVID variants that are spreading internationally.
One, first found in the U.K., is already here in New York, which has Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for strict travel measures.
He wants to ban travel from the U.K. to the U.S., specifically New York’s three airports, in an attempt to keep the variant discovered there from spreading here even more, calling it “tremendously troubling.”
“Let’s have a travel ban right now, a travel ban from the United Kingdom to the United States to protect all of us,” de Blasio said Tuesday.
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As New York City ramps up efforts to get COVID vaccines in arms, the mayor is trying to buy more time, calling on the federal government to take action.
“If we don’t have a travel ban, then we’re literally inviting this new horrible variant in the door,” he said.
That new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus, first detected in England, sending it into a nationwide lockdown, has already made its way to New York.
The state’s first confirmed case was detected in Saratoga Springs, a man affiliated with a jewelry store there.
Since he hasn’t traveled recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes it was community spread.
“The U.K. strain is highly problematic,” he said.
Scientists say, however, there’s a strain of COVID that’s even more concerning, one that’s been detected in South Africa. There are fears current vaccines may not be as effective against this variant.
“The South African variant is the one that is making the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus. “It’ll take another two to three weeks to understand the immune responses with current vaccines, and until then, we are very, very scared.”
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Meanwhile, as the city calls for a halt to travel from the U.K., CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis spoke to New Yorkers returning from holiday visits with family there.
“There’s plenty of protocols in place to make sure everybody is safe. The airlines make it safe, the airports. If you take the proper precautions, I don’t see a problem,” said Harold Chaloner, of Valley Stream.
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Another traveler said she had to show a negative test at Heathrow Airport, contradicting what politicians in the U.S. claim.
“When I went over, nobody checked to make sure I had a negative test, so that is more concerning, people leaving the U.S. than people coming in. The U.K. has it handled. I feel like it’s the U.S. that’s lagging a little bit,” said Julia Debski, of Washington Heights.
Both travelers say they were asked to give contact information here and handed a form, which warns of the state’s order to quarantine or face a fine up to $10,000.
Both say they already planned to quarantine and re-test when that time is up.
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