The security line at the Atlanta airport's international terminal (photo by Eric Bowman)
The United States Department of State announced on Thursday that it would cut back on “Do Not Travel” advisories for international destinations after public health officials announced a change in how they will assess COVID-19 concerns.
According to Reuters, State Department officials said the update would leave only 10 percent of the nearly 120 countries and territories at “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” which includes all risk factors, not just coronavirus infections.
“We believe the updated framework will help U.S. citizens make better informed decisions about the safety of international travel,” a State Department spokesperson said.
The State Department also revealed it would no longer automatically correlate its advisory levels with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travel Health Notice system.
Earlier this week, the CDC announced it would overhaul its Travel Health Notice system for international destinations. Officials revealed the new system would reserve Level 4 travel health notices for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating coronavirus case trajectory or extremely high case counts, the emergence of a new variant of concern or healthcare infrastructure collapse.
Levels 3, 2, and 1 will continue to be primarily determined by 28-day incidence or case counts and the system will go into effect on April 18. With this new configuration, travelers will have a more actionable alert system for when they should not travel to a certain destination.
There are around 90 countries and regions currently rated by the CDC at Level 4, including most of Europe, Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and Australia. The government advises even vaccinated Americans avoid travel to the countries.
As part of the same announcement, President Joe Biden and his administration extended the nationwide mask mandate for public forms of transportation through May 3, as the government monitors reports of a surge in coronavirus cases.
The CDC said the order was set to expire on April 18, but the extension was necessary to assess the “potential impact of the rise of cases on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare system capacity.”
Earlier this week, the CDC lowered its travel warning levels for multiple Caribbean countries, continuing a trend that’s occurred over the past few weeks, as COVID-19 cases have diminished around the globe.
In March, the government agency lowered the COVID-19 travel health notice for cruise ships to Level 2, which is “moderate” risk. The CDC continues to urge passengers to get recommended COVID-19 vaccines.