OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new travel restrictions for people arriving from the United Kingdom and South Africa where a new and seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus is circulating.
Inslee said Monday he would issue a proclamation requiring passengers who arrive from the United Kingdom and South Africa to quarantine for 14 days, including passengers who have arrived from those countries in the past few days. It also encourages those people to get tested for the virus.
“Today’s action is a commonsense public health measure and … is another attempt to keep Washingtonians safe,” Inslee said.
The quarantine measures are precautionary and meant to stem a possible surge in cases that could overwhelm hospitals, he said. The quarantine is mandatory and although it’s legally enforceable, Inslee said no one will be taken into custody over it.
“We have found that when we have put legally binding requirements in the state, we have had incredible levels of compliance,” Inslee said.
Dozens of countries have restricted travel from Britain in recent days because of the new strain. Inslee said he wasn’t aware of other states issuing restrictions.
Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed lockdown measures in London and neighboring areas where Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain is “out of control.” Experts said the early evidence indicates the strain is not more deadly, and expressed confidence that the vaccines now being given would be effective against it.
British Airways canceled the only nonstop flight from London to Seattle on Monday, according to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesperson Perry Cooper, but he said the reason behind it wasn’t immediately known.
“No word at this time if future flights are affected,” he said in an email.
Overall, international flights have been down dramatically during the pandemic, Cooper said. Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Air, the only other airlines with nonstop flights to England, previously suspended service, he said.
Sea-Tac airport doesn’t have nonstop flights to Africa although travelers could come from either country through flights that connect in other U.S. cities.