New York Governor Andrew M Cuomo urged the US Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Secretary Chad Wolf to require international airline travellers to receive a negative Covid-19 test result before being permitted into the US.

Around 120 countries currently need passengers to show a negative test result before boarding international flights.

Every week, around 70,000 to 80,000 international passengers arrive at JFK International Airport in New York City.

In his letter to Wolf, Cuomo said: “I have for months deployed as many as 100 personnel to meet domestic flights, and enforce our domestic travel quarantine, but do not have access to arrivals of international flights. Those areas of the airport are under the sole federal control of Customs and Border Protection and the CDC. Once an individual is already on US soil, I believe it is too late anyway.”

The UK coronavirus strain, B.1.1.7, is estimated to be at anywhere from 50% to 70% more transmissible and has now been found in more than 30 other countries.

From being merely a quarter of all UK cases in November, this strain has gone on to exceed two-thirds of cases in just one month. The South African and Nigerian strains also indicated evidence of increased transmissibility.

Governor Cuomo continued: “While we do not yet know if there is any impact on the ability of these variants to outsmart the vaccines we so urgently developed, we can only hope that we stop it before it surges our caseload beyond the capacity of the US health care system.

“The only way to manage this is to control this at the source – prevent any passenger who is positive from getting on the plane. We saw from our own genetic testing that the virus that arrived in New York came here from Europe, not China. It was our failure to control the airports that brought this virus to us.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau issued an interim order that formalised new Covid-19 testing requirements for all international airline travellers coming to Canada and offered additional guidance to airline operators and the travelling passengers on the new pre-departure testing requirement announced on 31 December 2020.

Effective from 7 January, all travellers aged five years and above need to provide evidence of a negative laboratory test result for Covid-19 to the airline before boarding a flight to Canada.