OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee issued restrictions Monday on travelers coming from countries where a new variant of COVID-19 is circulating, including the United Kingdom and South Africa.
The proclamation requires travelers who have been in those regions to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in Washington. This includes travelers who recently arrived from the UK and South Africa, according to Inslee.
Health officials also ask those travelers get tested for COVID-19 when they arrive in Washington.
“This is a cautionary reminder that we’re perhaps months away from being out of the worst of this pandemic, obviously,” Inslee said. “And it is a vivid reminder of the uncertainties and unpredictabilities of this pandemic.”
Flight crews will be exempt from the travel proclamation, but Inslee said officials are looking into additional testing for that group.
If the mutant strain of COVID-19 is identified in other countries, travelers from those countries will also be required to quarantine.
A growing number of countries began halting air travel from the UK because of the new and seemingly more contagious strain of coronavirus in England.
Two British Airways flights to and from London that were scheduled to arrive at Sea-Tac Airport at 4:30 p.m. and depart at 6:25 p.m. on Monday have been canceled, according to the Port of Seattle website.
Over the weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed strict 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 lethal, and they expressed confidence that the vaccines now being rolled out would still be effective against it.
The mutation has not been seen in the United States yet, but health officials say that doesn't mean it's not already in the country. Inslee said he hopes the travel restrictions will help slow the spread of the mutation in the U.S.