CDC Travel Guidelines Relax for More than 100 Countries

·3 min read

On Monday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its coronavirus travel guidelines for over 100 countries “to better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, COVID-19 spread,” the agency said on its website. The new CDC travel guidelines now include specific recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. 

The 110 changes includes 61 places that have been downgraded from the highest Level 4 status to a Level 3, plus 50 more lowered to Levels 1 and 2, reports Reuters. The U.S. State Department has mirrored the CDC changes by lowering 85 of its own travel advisories for countries including Japan ahead of the Olympics, but told Reuters it did not lower all 110 advisories after taking into consideration "commercial flight availability, restrictions on U.S. citizen entry, and impediments to obtaining COVID test results within three calendar days." (Returning to the United States still requires a COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours in advance.)

Countries downgraded to a Level 1, for “low” COVID-19 risk, include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, and Belize. Level 2 “moderate-risk” countries include Barbados, Bermuda, Cambodia, Mauritius, Uganda, and Zambia. Countries downgraded from Level 4 ("very high" risk) to a Level 3 “high” COVID-19 risk include Ecuador, France, the Philippines, South Africa, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary, and Italy.

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The new rankings are a result of revised criteria for each tier, with the highest Level 4 now assigned to destinations with 500 cases per 100,000 (more lenient than the previous 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 benchmark). For Level 3 and 4 destinations, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid non-essential travel, and be fully vaccinated (two weeks out from their final shot) if they do visit. Level 2 advises travelers are fully vaccinated, and that "unvaccinated travelers who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid nonessential travel to the these destinations." Level 1 only advises that travelers be fully vaccinated.

CDC travel guidelines do not take into account the country or territory's restrictions for Americans, however. Singapore, for example, which is classified under the lowest level, does not permit anyone traveling from outside Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau to enter without quarantining for 21 days. Japan is classified as Level 3 by both the CDC and State Department ahead of next month's year-delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo, though the Games will not allow foreign spectators to attend.

Regions where non-U.S. citizens are still barred from entering the U.S. despite very low COVID-19 case loads, including China, certain European nations, the U.K., and South Africa, could potentially see those restrictions removed following “an interagency conversation" that is "looking at the data in real time as to how we should move forward," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told Reuters. The Biden administration is reportedly working with those countries toward reopening travel after more than one year of restrictions.

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Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler