Travellers wearing face coverings walk with their luggage in the almost deserted departures hall at Terminal 5 of Heathrow…
Travellers wearing face coverings walk with their luggage in the almost deserted departures hall at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in west London on Dec. 21, 2020.

U.S. officials are considering a requirement for all travelers from Britain to offer proof they have tested negative for COVID-19.

News outlets say the White House coronavirus task force met Monday and discussed crafting a rule that passengers prove they have taken a negative test within 48 or 72 hours before leaving Britain.

The proposed rule comes as more than 40 countries have suspended travelers from Britain in response to a dramatic rise of infections because of a new strain of COVID-19 sweeping across southern Britain.

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The U.S. has not restricted flights from Britain, however, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has asked airlines flying into the state from Britain to make all passengers take a COVID-19 test before they get on the plane. Three airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Delta Airlines, have agreed to Gov. Cuomo’s request.

In the western U.S., Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state Monday ordered a 14-day quarantine for all travelers entering the state from Britain and South Africa, where a similar mutation of COVID-19 has been identified.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday it is possible the new variant of the novel coronavirus is already in the United States.

The head of German-based pharmaceutical company BioNTech says the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with U.S.-based counterpart Pfizer is “highly likely” to work against the new strain.  But Ugur Sahin told reporters in Berlin if necessary, the vaccine could be modified and distributed within six weeks.  The European Union authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech cross the 27-nation bloc vaccine on Monday, with the first inoculations to begin on December 27. 

Hans Kluge, the European chief of the World Health Organization, says the agency will convene a meeting of members to discuss strategies to counter the new COVID-19 variant, but did not give a date.  WHO cautioned Monday against raising a major alarm over the new strain, saying there is no evidence it is more lethal than any known existing strains, and that such mutations are a normal part of a pandemic's evolution.  

Meanwhile, the world’s longest streak without a local coronavirus infection has been broken.  Taiwanese health authorities say a woman in her thirties has tested positive after coming into contact earlier this month with a New Zealand-born pilot who was infected while traveling overseas.   

The woman is Taiwan’s first locally transmitted COVID-19 case since April 12 — a stretch of 253 days.  Taiwan has been pointed to as a success story in how to respond to the pandemic, with just 766 total cases and just seven deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.  The island began checking on passengers on flights from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic began, in the early days of the outbreak for fever and pneumonia symptoms. 

And Antarctica has lost its designation as the last continent on Earth without a COVID-19 infection.  At least 36 people stationed at a Chilean research base in the icy continent recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 civilian contractors.   

The Vatican says it is “morally acceptable” for Roman Catholics to receive vaccines developed using tissue from aborted fetuses.      

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s doctrinal oversight office, issued a statement Monday granting permission for Catholics to take such vaccines because it does not “constitute formal cooperation” with the means in which the tissue was obtained.  The office also said it is not always possible to obtain vaccines that do not pose an ethical dilemma.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

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