The U.S. Department of State lifted its “Do Not Travel” advisory for all international travel on Thursday after nearly five months.
The advisory was put in place in March as cases of COVID-19 began to spread exponentially around the world. The bulletin originally placed all countries outside the U.S. under a Level 4: Do Not Travel warning—the highest level advisory—due to the risk of contracting COVID-19 while traveling abroad. The result was an essential ban on international travel for U.S. citizens.
Now that all-encompassing warning has been eased in favor of reverting back to the standard approach of ranking each country individually.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions),” the State Department’s release stated. This method would help to give U.S. travelers “more detailed information about the current status in each country,” according to the Department.
The change was made because certain countries have been doing better with their responses to the virus. “It was based on our recognition that saying globally, advising the risk in every country in the world was such that we needed to say ‘do not travel’ was no longer accurate, that there were individual countries where the risk had gone down,” Carl Risch, the assistant secretary for consular affairs, said on a media conference call on Thursday.
Officials also said the decision was made in “close coordination” with the Centers of Disease Control. “CDC continues to monitor every country in the world and as they identify that a country is either improving or that a country is going in the other direction, they will let us know and we in turn will make the adjustments,” Risch said.
Among the individual rankings, many countries remain under the Level 4 warning, but a multitude are also under the more lax “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisory. Most European countries are ranked at Level 3, as are large swaths of Asia and Africa. Most of the Middle East, South America, as well as Russia and China, are still under a Level 4 advisory.
“We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic,” the Department’s release stated. Officials also advised any traveler planning to go abroad to enroll in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts from U.S. officials about the COVID-19 situation and other emergencies while abroad.
For its part, the CDC is advising that the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 is to stay home. The health agency also has its own COVID-19 risk assessment by country. For the majority of nations around the world, the CDC assigned its highest warning level, Level 3: COVID-19 Risk Is High. Seven countries have a Level 1 warning and therefore are considered low risk for travelers, including New Zealand, Fiji, and Thailand. The CDC even lists 13 countries as having no travel warning because the risk of contracting the virus is “very low.” This safest category includes Caribbean destinations such as the Cayman Islands, Dominica, and the British Virgin Islands, as well as places like Taiwan, Laos, Greenland, and French Polynesia.
Even as the U.S. rolls back travel restrictions for its citizens, American travelers still are not welcome in many countries, including all of the E.U. because of the way the outbreak continues to ravage nearly every region of the U.S.
Regardless, the unprecedented Do Not Travel warning for all countries is not likely to be put in place in the near future. “I think we would obviously follow with CDC if they determined there was a need to go back to global posture,” Risch says. “But at this point because we do have so many countries in different stages of disease management I suspect that we are going to stay at country-by-country posture.”
Source : https://www.cntraveler.com/story/state-department-lifts-international-do-not-travel-warning