JFK is empty on Christmas Eve as less than 850,000 people travel

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a group of people with luggage at an airport: MailOnline logo


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New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport appeared deserted on Christmas Eve, as international travel restrictions and warnings over the pandemic saw passenger numbers plummet.

DailyMail.com pictures show no lines at security at Terminal 1’s international departures, and just a few hardy travelers checking in for flights at Terminal 8.

Plummeting travel numbers came after officials pleaded with Americans to stay home over Christmas to avoid spreading coronavirus.

The US government also announced on Christmas Eve that all airline passengers arriving from the United Kingdom will have to test negative for COVID-19, starting Monday.

A new mutant strain of the virus that is 70 percent more infectious is spreading in Britain, prompting many countries to shut their borders to travelers from there.

Airports were quiet across the US, with just 846,520 people taking to the skies for the holiday weekend on Christmas Eve, according to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. 

That was roughly a third of the number of people who traveled on the day before Christmas in 2019.

‘One year ago, 2,552,194 people were screened. If you choose to travel, please wear a mask,’ she said in the post.  

And JFK was truly reflective of how little air travel was actually taking place over the holiday weekend. 

Only a few people could be seen going through the TSA checkpoint at Terminal 1 Departures. Some headed through the terminal stopped and took COVID-19 tests as they headed for their flights.

Delta Airline planes were packed tightly together on the tarmac as air travel overall was down by 60 percent. 

Farbstein said Thursday morning that 1,191,123 individuals were screened at airport checkpoints nationwide on Wednesday. 

‘It’s the highest checkpoint volume since March 16, when 1,257,823 people were screened,’ Farbstein said, adding that anyone who travels this holiday season should ‘wear a mask’.

The revelation comes just a day after the TSA reported that more than 5 million people passed through airport checkpoints across the nation between Friday and Tuesday despite pleas from public health experts to stay at home for the holidays. 

Video: United Airlines offering COVID-19 tests to some fliers (FOX News)

United Airlines offering COVID-19 tests to some fliers

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Around 3.2 million of those passengers were screened across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each day recording more than a million air travelers apiece.

This broke the record for the most weekend travelers since the pandemic began in March, and the first time since then that more than a million passengers have passed through the nation’s airports on three consecutive days. 

The TSA reported that 954,782 people passed through airport security checkpoints on Monday and 992,167 passed through checkpoints on Tuesday.

The influx in air travel ahead of the Christmas holiday is so far narrowly outpacing what the US saw in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, when some Americans likewise disregarded travel warnings that experts have since attributed to the nationwide surge in COVID cases.

Since March, there have been a total of nine days that saw more than 1 million passenger screened in airports: One occurred in October, four in November, and four have been recorded so far this month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance last month that discouraged travel and urged those who need to travel to acquire coronavirus tests before and after their journey.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement Thursday that all airline passengers arriving from the UK must test negative within 72 hours of departure.

Their decision marked a turnaround after the Trump administration told U.S. airlines on Tuesday it was not planning to require any testing for arriving UK passengers.

Earlier on Thursday, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines said they were requiring all passengers on flights from the United Kingdom to the United States to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The CDC said late on Thursday passengers must test negative via either a PCR or Antigen test.

They noted ‘viruses constantly change through mutation, and preliminary analysis in the UK suggests that this new variant may be up to 70% more transmissible than previously circulating variants.’

President Donald Trump in March suspended entry of nearly all foreign nationals who visited the United Kingdom in the past 14 days, which has reduced air travel to the U.S. from Britain by about 90%.

Under the new policy, passengers departing from the UK for the United States must provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (in hard copy or electronic) to the airline, the CDC said.

Airlines must confirm negative test results for all passengers before they board. If passengers choose not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding.

The CDC said the order will be signed on Friday and is effective Monday.

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