A police officer directs traffic at the entrance to the...

A police officer directs traffic at the entrance to the closed ferry terminal in Dover, England, on Monday after the Port of Dover was closed because of the new strain. Credit: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

A new and more transmissible strain of coronavirus sweeping across the United Kingdom prompted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday to ask airlines to include New York on the list of 120 nations that require all travelers coming from Britain to have a negative COVID-19 test before they get on the plane.

The three airlines with direct flights between New York and the U.K. — British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Delta — have agreed to the request, Cuomo said.

Several European nations, including Austria, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France and the Netherlands, have banned incoming travel from England, citing concerns about the new strain.

There are many questions about what the new coronavirus strain means for foreign travel, when it could arrive in the United States and how it will respond to the newly released COVID-19 vaccines.

Should people be worried about this new COVID-19 variant?

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of medicine and infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, urged Long Islanders to stay calm, remain patient and continue with basic COVID-19 health guidelines including wearing masks and social distancing.

"The answer is take a deep breath," Glatt said. "We don’t know what it means yet. We have had numerous times where it’s been thought some of the new strains are a little more contagious."

How is this new COVID strain different?

The variation found in the United Kingdom, known as "VUI — 202012/01," was first identified in September. U.K. health officials said they have identified 23 changes to the virus' genetic material — an unusually high number that appears to allow it to spread more quickly — that controls the spike protein, allowing COVID to penetrate host cells and cause an infection.

Is this strain of the virus more deadly than current variants of the virus?

Based on early research, public health officials say there's no evidence that the mutated virus is "any more dangerous or deadly than the strains that are currently out there," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.

Vivek Murthy, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for surgeon general, appeared Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press," and said while reports appear to show the new strain is "more transmissible, more contagious," there is no "evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus."

Is there a concern the COVID-19 vaccine would not be effective against this new strain?

Public health officials are confident that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have each been approved by the FDA, will be effective against this strain. "Even though there are variations of strain, all of them have this spike protein and the vaccine works against this spike protein," Glatt said.

Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump administration's coronavirus testing czar, said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that it's not uncommon for viruses to mutate. "We've seen almost 4,000 different mutations among this virus," Giroir said." "There is no indication that the mutation right now that they're talking about is overcoming England."

What is the likelihood of this variant making its way to the United States?

It remains unclear if the virus will be limited to Europe but public health officials and elected officials speculate it could be in United States already based on the volume of daily flights and thousands of daily passengers that arrive in the country from the United Kingdom.

With AP


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months