U.S. will now require COVID negative test for travelers departing from U.K.

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The U.S. will require passengers flying from the U.K. to show proof of a negative test for coronavirus, amid rising concerns over a more-contagious COVID-19 strain that is spreading after first emerging in England.

Travelers arriving from the U.K. need to get a negative polymerase chain reaction or antigen test no more than 72 hours before leaving, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said the order will be signed by President Donald Trump on Friday and come into effect Dec. 28.

Regions from Hong Kong to Canada have temporarily suspended travel from the U.K. as the new coronavirus variant alarmed scientists and governments around the world. Early analysis suggests it may be as much as 70% more transmissible than other circulating strains.

Passengers from the U.K. must provide written documentation of their test to their airline, according to the CDC statement. Carriers must confirm the negative result for all passengers boarding, and deny entry to those who don’t take a test. The CDC said earlier this week that the new variant described in the U.K. could already be circulating in the U.S. undetected.

Governments around the world are also taking action as a fast-spreading variant sweeps through South Africa, with the U.K. banning flights from that country. Hong Kong banned all recent travelers from South Africa and extended a mandatory quarantine for most other visitors in an attempt to prevent a spread of COVID-19 cases in the city.

South Africa, meanwhile, has pushed back against the U.K., rejecting allegations that a new COVID variant was contributing to a second wave of U.K. infections.

A new virus variant that was detected in the U.K. has a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African strain, known as 501.V2, but they are “two completely independent lineages,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement late Thursday.

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