US urges Americans 'do not travel' to majority of countries amid 'unprecedented' risk
The State Department updated its travel warning system to sync with the CDC's.
The State Department has updated its travel warnings to better reflect the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it said, meaning that as of Tuesday, approximately 80% of countries are now a "Level 4: Do Not Travel" on its advisory.
"In light of those risks, the Department of State strongly recommends U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad," it said in a new notice Monday.
Last year, the department issued a blanket "Level 4: Do Not Travel" advisory, the first of its kind, to urge Americans not to travel overseas as the coronavirus swept around the world. The notice was lifted last August, as the department instead instituted individual notices for every country again, reflecting the local risks from the pandemic and other threats, like terrorism, crime or unrest.
Several countries, such as India, are seeing enormous spikes in cases of COVID-19, and the World Health Organization has reported that the average number of cases reported daily worldwide is now higher than it has ever been.
But the State Department's new advisories are not because there are spikes in the majority of these countries, it said, but rather an "adjustment" to using the "CDC's existing epidemiological assessments" in each country individually.
Prior to the announcement, just over 16% of countries had a "Level 4: Do Not Travel" warning from the State Department, and most of those were for extreme threats -- ongoing conflict like in Afghanistan or Iraq, bloody unrest like in Myanmar or Haiti, and dangerous regimes like in North Korea or Iran.
Like the State Department, the CDC has a four-tier system -- launched in November -- that rates the level of COVID-19 cases from low, at Level 1, to very high, at Level 4. Those levels are determined using the number of cases on a per capita basis and the direction of infection rates.
With mounting cases and new variants, the CDC is urging even vaccinated travelers to be cautious.
"Because of the current situation in India even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India," it said in its new notice for India late Monday -- standard language for all countries at its highest-level warning.
All travelers, including U.S. citizens, are currently required to provide a negative COVID-19 test before being able to board a flight to the U.S.
In addition, non-U.S. citizens who have traveled through China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland and the 26 European countries in the Schengen Area in the prior two weeks are barred from entering the U.S., with certain exceptions, like for spouses or children.
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