The CDC’s new travel advice upgrades 33 nations but keeps the UK at Level 3

Jun 9, 2021

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just issued newly updated travel advice for more than 120 countries. The headline? It’s great news for people who wanted to visit Iceland, Israel and Singapore, good news if you planned on going to Japan and not-so-great news if you had plans to travel to the U.K.

The new advisory pushed 33 countries to the lowest-risk category, Level 1. That includes the aforementioned trio of nations, as well as popular Caribbean destinations Anguilla and Barbuda, Belize and the Cayman Islands, Australia, New Zealand, China and Hong Kong.

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Among the countries upgraded from the highest-risk category, Level 4, to Level 3 were: Japan, France, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain and Italy. Level 3 is still considered “high” risk, and the CDC still recommends against non-essential travel for unvaccinated people, but the risk is lower for those who are fully vaccinated. Getting upgraded to Level 3 is encouraging for Japan that its COVID-19 situation may be improving as the Summer Olympics are set to begin on July 23, though foreigners aren’t expected to be allowed to attend.

The U.K. remained at Level 3, which does not bode well for the U.S.-U.K. travel corridor that travel officials on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for. Most travelers from America have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the U.K., as it’s still an amber list country. And most Brits can’t travel to the U.S. due to wide-ranging restrictions against non-essential travel that have been in place for more than a year. The beleaguered travel industry says the continued rise in vaccination rates indicates it’s time to lift restrictions.

“These are the poster children of good vaccination programs,” John Holland-Kaye, CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport, told USA Today. “There needs to be a prize for that.”

The CDC recommends avoiding travel to countries at Level 4, the highest-threat level. Countries in that category have more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. Level 4 countries include nations such as Argentina, Belgium Brazil and India.

The CDC’s threat levels are determined by the number of COVID-19 cases in a given country. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated before visiting any country at any level, but its guidance for unvaccinated travelers varies by how severe the pandemic is in each particular nation.

Level 1 countries like Australia and New Zealand are considered the lowest-risk destinations because they have reported less than 50 COVID-19 cases in the last 28 days. The CDC still recommends getting vaccinated before traveling to any location at Level 1.

After the CDC released its guidance, the State Department revised its travel advisories and removed 58 countries from its “Do Not Travel” list. Countries upgraded to Level 3 include Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico.

The State Department’s move comes six weeks after it warned Americans to avoid traveling to about 80% of the world’s countries due to COVID-19. Travel guidance from the State Department isn’t always 100% in sync with the CDC, as it takes into account other factors aside from health-related risks.

Featured photo by VM/Getty Images.

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