Just when we hear there is a light, however faint, at the end of the long COVID-19 tunnel, another peer into the darkness comes. Two international airlines will require passengers from the United Kingdom to show a negative COVID-19 test before flying to New York state, adding the state to a list of 120 destinations after a new, highly contagious strain of the novel coronavirus was recently discovered in the U.K.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo first made the request for U.K. pre-boarding COVID tests Sunday, as thousands of airline passengers land in John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia international airports in the state each day on British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Delta flights.

British Airways and Delta Airlines agreed Monday to require travelers to test negative for the novel coronavirus before boarding flights to New York state as scientists announced a new, highly contagious strain of COVID-19 spreading through the U.K. that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said is 70% more transmissible than earlier variants of the disease.

An announcement from scientists that an even more contagious strain of COVID-19 exists and that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it is 70% more transmissible than earlier variants of the disease are even more depressing and scary.

The coronavirus initially spread in states like California and New York from millions of European travelers who landed in major coastal airports late last winter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. European travel was not restricted in the United States until mid-March.

Questions that must be answered immediately. Details about the mutated strain of COVID-19 must be learned as soon as humanly possibly. Is the shifted disease more deadly, or will cause a higher rate of death, than the original disease? When will officials know if Pfizer’s and Moderna’s approved coronavirus vaccines are effective against the new strain?

We hope these festive days to come are not blackened by a new, more deadly mutation of a plague that has already killed more than 316,000 Americans. As the holidays approach in short order, it’s critical for health experts to learn as much as they can about this new strain with haste.

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