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New COVID Strain Concerns: Gov. Cuomo Says British Airways, Delta, Virgin Atlantic To Screen Passengers From U.K. Headed To New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Fears over the new COVID-19 strain have dozens of countries banning flights from the U.K.

Passengers were stranded at London's Heathrow Airport on Monday morning as new restrictions went into effect.

"Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you, we cannot continue with Christmas as planned," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

More than 40 countries, including Canada, have now banned or restricted travel from the U.K. France also closed its border with the U.K. for 48 hours, CBS2's Nick Caloway reported.

MORE: Dr. Max Gomez Breaks Down What We Know About New Coronavirus Strain Spreading Rapidly In The U.K.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have voluntarily agreed to test travelers from the U.K. for coronavirus before departing for New York.

But on Monday night the governor said there needs to be a federal policy or the mutated strain will just come in from other states.

"Yes, the people who now fly into New York will be negative, but we'll have flights into Chicago, we'll have flights into other parts of the country, and then those people can get on flights and come back to New York or infect other states. And this whole notion that any one state can protect itself was foolish from the beginning," Cuomo said.


Earlier in the day, the governor sounded the alarm.

"This is a major problem. And for us to once again be incompetent as a federal government and take no action is just not a viable option for us in New York," Cuomo said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also called on the feds to step in.

"Why on Earth wouldn't we put that temporary measure in effect? We can't do that. Only the federal government could at least have a requirement for a negative test before getting on a plane," de Blasio said.

Cuomo added that he believes this new, highly contagious strain of the virus is already here, but he's hoping new travel restrictions will prevent another outbreak like what New York experienced in the spring, when the virus entered the state from Europe without any warning.

This comes as hospitalizations in the state are at more than 6,300 and there were 109 fatalities reported Sunday.

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