'Do not travel': CDC, State Department raise UK travel alert after spike in COVID cases

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U.S. citizens should avoid travel to the United Kingdom because of a spike in coronavirus cases, two government agencies said Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department each raised the alert levels for the region to their highest levels.

The CDC raised the travel advisory for the U.K. to a level 4, meaning "avoid travel,'' citing "very high'' levels of coronavirus cases. The alert had been at level 3, which advised travelers to be fully vaccinated before travel to the U.K. and recommended that unvaccinated travelers avoid nonessential travel. The U.K. travel alert has been at level 3 since May.

"Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,'' the CDC said in its update.

'Absolutely critical to both countries': US, UK airlines urge lifting of travel restrictions

The United Kingdom, which encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, wasn't alone in being raised to level 4 by the CDC. The British Virgin Islands, Fiji, Indonesia and Zimbabwe also saw alert levels increase.

The State Department also raised its alert level on the U.K. to level 4, which means "do not travel,'' to reflect the CDC's designation. The State Department has been incorporating the CDC's COVID-19 designations in its alerts since April.

The U.K. recorded more than 50,000 new cases in a day for the first time in six months, and the British government's top medical adviser issued a dire warning as Britain eased more COVID-19 restrictions on Monday.

The heightened travel risk levels for the United Kingdom come as airlines and tourism boosters have been urging President Joe Biden to lift international travel restrictions to the United States from the U.K. and other countries, including those in the European Union. Several European countries have already reopened their borders to U.S. citizens this summer.

Last week, reports said Biden would have an update on the international travel restrictions as early as this week.

Can U.S. citizens travel to the UK right now?

U.S. citizens are allowed to travel to the U.K. but face travel restrictions, including coronavirus testing requirements and quarantine.

Travelers returning from the U.K. to the United States must also show a negative coronavirus test or recent recovery from COVID-19 to board U.S.-bound international flights under a CDC requirement in place since January. The requirement applies to all U.S.-bound travelers on international flights, even those who are fully vaccinated.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UK travel: CDC, State Department raise alert as COVID cases spike