The State Department is advising all Americans not to travel to the United Kingdom as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges.
It came on the same day that Brits marked ‘freedom day’ – with the majority of all Covid restrictions eased and the country fully reopening in spite of the rise in cases.
The move by the State Department means that Britain is now at the highest warning level possible – ‘do not travel’ – on a four-part ranking.
First is ‘exercise normal precautions’; second is ‘exercise increased caution’; then comes ‘reconsider travel’.
The warning for Britain has fluctuated between Level 3 ‘reconsider travel’, and Level 4 ‘do not travel’, several times this year already.
In May, the US government had lowered the U.K. to a Level 3 advisory rating.
The latest upgrade comes as COVID cases across the U.K. soared by 52 per cent week-on-week, with the number of deaths falling slightly.
The U.K. on Sunday recorded 48,161 COVID cases – up from the 31,772 cases recorded last Sunday.
The State Department’s decision comes hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its own advice, recommending that U.S. citizens do not visit the U.K.
The move means that Britain is now at the highest warning level possible – ‘do not travel’
The State Department and CDC announcements are a blow to the airline industry. A British Airways flight is seen at London’s Heathrow airport
The United States has barred nearly all non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in the UK from travelling to the United States since March 2020.
But Britain allows American visitors – but requires a 10-day quarantine on arrival and two COVID-19 tests.
In June, the Biden administration said it was forming expert working groups with Britain, Canada, Mexico and the European Union to determine how best to restart travel safely after more than a year of restrictions.
U.S. and airline officials do not expect the restrictions on UK travelers to be lifted until August at the earliest – and warn it could be pushed back further.
The latest State Department’s advisory reads: ‘Do not travel to the United Kingdom due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution due to terrorism.
‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for the United Kingdom due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country.
‘There are restrictions in place affecting U.S. citizen entry into the United Kingdom.
‘Your risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower if you are fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Before planning any international travel, please review the CDC’s specific recommendations for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.’
One of the U.K.’s top epidemiologists on Sunday refused to rule out a new lockdown before Christmas.
Professor Neil Ferguson said he ‘can’t be certain’ over whether the country will need to lock down again in the winter before Christmas.
But he admitted that in a worst-case scenario ‘there may be a need to basically slow spread to some extent’ to ease pressure on the NHS
He said that it was possible 2,000 people would be hospitalized a day, and 200,000 new daily cases, but it would be three weeks before the impact of Monday’s ‘Freedom Day’ is known.
The warnings come due to the Delta variant, which originated in India and is more transmissible than previous strains and is ravaging the United Kingdom.
Travelers are seen at New York City’s JFK airport on July 4. Travel to the United Kingdom is now not recommended, due to COVID-19
As the number of U.K. cases shoots higher with the Indian Delta COVID variant taking hold, New York City cases also are beginning to move higher – and they threaten to spike just as the U.K.’s numbers have as the Delta variant becomes an increasing share of the city’s infections
Still, with vaccine rates high in both the U.K., deaths have not spiked higher even as COVID cases have; New Yorkers and Americans can hold onto some hope that deaths won’t spike, either, though in areas of the country with low vaccination rates, there is some worry
Delta spread quickly throughout the U.K. and had become the dominant strain by May 21, when 60.6 per cent of all new cases in the two weeks preceding it were identified as the B1.617.2 variant.
Just six weeks later, on the week ending July 2, 100 per cent of all UK cases were the Delta variant.
New York City has a lag on the U.K. when it comes to the prevalence of the strain.
It became dominant by the week ending July 3, accounting for 69 per cent of all new cases just as people jetted in and out of the city for the July 4 weekend.
This means if New York City follows the same pattern as the U.K., the Big Apple is on track for the Delta strain to make up 100 per cent of all new cases by August 14.
And this threatens to set off a new wave of the virus, just one month after New York state lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in June.
The spread of the Delta variant sent cases and deaths surging once again in the UK and plunged the country into yet another lockdown.
In the six weeks between May 21 – when it became the dominant strain – and July 2 – when it accounted for 100 per cent of new cases, COVID-19 infections surged a staggering 1,124 per cent from 2,290 to 25,750.
Currently, the U.K. and New York City are roughly on a par when it comes to the vaccine rollout, with 53 per cent and 49 per cent of the populations fully vaccinated, respectively.
The next six weeks will then be crucial to ramping up the vaccination rates in the Big Apple to protect New Yorkers from the dominant strain as it takes hold.
But, the vaccine rollout in the U.S. has stalled nationwide and the states with the lowest rates of inoculation are among those seeing the biggest resurgence of the virus.
The White House said on Friday that Florida accounted for one in five new cases of COVID-19 this week.
There is also some uncertainty around how effective the vaccines are against the more contagious Delta variant.
A new report from Israel on Friday found the Pfizer two-dose vaccine is ‘weaker’ against the strain than hoped, providing 64 per cent protection against infection from the variant as of June 6.
Israel once led the entire world in the vaccine race, vaccinating 61 per cent of its population with Pfizer but now the country is dealing with a surge in cases driven by the Delta variant.