Friday, December 25, 2020

U.K. Increasingly Isolated as U.S. Restricts Travel

 America’s requirement that passengers coming from Britain provide negative Covid-19 tests is just the latest woe to strike the country this Christmas period.



It was one more reminder, delivered before dawn on Christmas morning, that Britain is not only an island nation, but one that finds itself increasingly alone.

A decision by the United States to require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their departure, starting on Monday, was not so much a shock as it was another bitter pill in a somber holiday season.

There is the fast spread of a coronavirus variant feared to be more contagious. Dozens of nations have barred travelers from Britain from entering. Expanded lockdowns in the country will include 48 million people by Saturday. And thousands of trucks remain stranded along England’s coast even after France lifted a brief border blockade imposed over virus concerns.

Adding to the volatility was a last-minute Brexit deal with the European Union, which kept Britain from crashing out of the bloc without an agreement in place but was all the same a painful reminder of a decision that has divided the country.

Then there was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s holiday message, which warned against “snogging under the mistletoe.”


Although a refrain of Brexit supporters was that they were driven by a desire for Britain to “take back control,” the nation’s immediate destiny is being shaped by forces beyond any individual’s control — and perhaps none more so than the coronavirus.

The rapid spread of the virus variant — which government statistics indicate accounts for half of all cases currently in England — led to the lockdown of London and southern England this week. Starting on Saturday, it will include an even wider swath of the country, and a national lockdown has not been ruled out.

“I know that it’s been very, very tough over the last few weeks, and, I must tell people, it will continue to be difficult,” Mr. Johnson said on Thursday.

Many countries already require a negative coronavirus test for entry, and the new U.S. restrictions are less severe than the near total bans that about 50 nations have placed on travelers from Britain. But with the country typically serving as a connection hub for passengers traveling between Europe and the United States, it was another blow to its battered airlines, which have slashed flight after flight as governments suspended travel.

The usual flood of traffic between the United States and Britain had already suffered a precipitous decline. More than 4.8 million British residents visited the United States in 2019, according to the Office of National Statistics.