CDC updates travel guidelines, noting high-risk territories

Photo courtesy of Suhyeon Choi, Unsplash

Interested in traveling to your favorite country for vacation or studies? You may wish to reconsider your travel plans for the summer break. 

In close alignment with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policies, the United States State Department updated its travel advisories. The new recommendation discourages all travel to “level four” countries. More than 80% of the world’s countries and territories have been grouped in this category, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India and the United Kingdom. 

The CDC divides travel advisories into four numbered categories, beginning with level one. A higher number indicates a higher travel risk. A level one category permits various travel purposes to countries classified in this group. As of April 19, only seventeen countries remain safe for all travel. Australia, Brunei, China, New Zealand, Samoa and Thailand are few. Only simple cautionary actions are advised, such as handwashing and social distancing. 

Level two and level three categories signify countries with higher risk for American travelers’ health. Therefore, the CDC and the State Department encourages limited trips to countries included in these groupings. Travel for vacation purposes is strictly unadvised. Countries and territories that belong in level two or three include Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Morocco and South Korea. 

The level four classification is the riskiest category. Any travel to a country falling into this grouping is strongly discouraged, essential or nonessential purposes notwithstanding. 

Two significant reasons for placing countries in the last category are due to either wars or epidemics/pandemics. In India alone, daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 300,000 a day. Another surge is occurring in Brazil. 

Variants from India and Brazil have exacerbated the coronavirus pandemic. Overall, three million people worldwide have died from coronavirus complications. This number can greatly augment should safety precautions be ignored or unenforced.  

It is the worsening COVID situation that has prompted the State Department to reconsider new travel guidelines. From the week of April 20, the State Department will continue to update its travel guidelines in sync with the CDC. However, a media note from the State Department has stated that CDC analyses of each country’s cases are not the sole factor considering travel recommendations. 

“Our Advisories also take into account logistical factors, including in-country testing availability and current travel restrictions for U.S. citizens," it stated.

Despite travel discouragements and reconsideration-provoking statements, it is important to note that countries placed in the level four category are not completely out of reach. Air arrivals are still granted entry if travelers prove their full vaccination status, a negative result from COVID testing, some other criteria, or both. 

The new travel advisories are still subject to change. “As always," the State Department concluded, "we are closely monitoring conditions around the globe, and will regularly update our destination-specific advice to U.S. travelers as conditions evolve."