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CDC Adjusts Risks for Visiting Japan and other International Destinations

Bending to political will the US State Department and CDC attempt to relax advisories despite pending threats

June 9, 2021

In a positive leap forward, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased travel restrictions for more than 110 countries and territories, including Japan just ahead of the Olympics. Some 61 countries shifted from Level 4 to Level 3 as a result of vaccine roll out.

The CDC’s new ratings, first reported by Reuters, moved from discouraging all travel to recommending travel for fully vaccinated individuals. The move would help to “better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations from countries with sustained, but controlled, Covid-19 spread” the CDC noted.

Other countries have been lowered from Level 3 to 2. The up-to-date list is available here.

As countries begin to open borders, quarantine regulations remains an obstacle to those who might otherwise choose to travel. For instance, all U.S. visitors to the UK currently have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival. Meanwhile, UK residents visiting  the US may be prevented from traveling there at all due to the presidential decree put into place last March.

An additional 50 countries and territories have been lowered to “Level 2” or “Level 1,” according to the CDC and these countries now include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize and Albania.

At “Level 3”  are France, Ecuador, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary and Italy.

Airlines, airports and the travel industry have all repeatedly called for transatlantic travel to be allowed. However, the U.S. State Department remains inclined to go slow and keep its alignment tuned to CDC recommendations.

The five ring symbol of the Olympic Games at Tokyo museum (Shutterstock)

Of primary importance ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Japan this summer, postponed until 2021, is the downgrading of Japan from a level 4 to a level 3 – which calls for “reconsidering travel to this destination,” rather than a level 4 “do not travel” warning. Japan is in the grips of a new wave of infections ahead of next month’s games. The level 4 advisory kicked up an international fuss, that prompted Japanese officials to insist the nation would be ready to open the global competitions starting on July 23.

The State Department answered these concerns by prompting the White House to reaffirm its support for the Games to be held in Tokyo this summer despite the new wave of infections and a low vaccination rate in that host country.