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U.S. State Department Puts 80 Percent of the World on Red Alert

US travel policies line up with CDC recommendations in calling for slow-down on international travel

April 22, 2021

The U.S. State Department updated its list of countries to the red tiered Level 4, Do-Not-Travel status this week to extend to 80 percent of the world’s countries and destinations, up from 30 percent just days ago. The announcement was careful to point out that, so far, policies in place are not calling for the reassessment of the current health situation in a given country or region, but rather to note that there has been an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system in its intention to rely more on CDC’s existing epidemiological assessments.

Until this time, the U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control have not been in alignment in their assessing and profiling the dangers of COVID in various countries as the world goes in and out of lockdowns and pandemic surges. The CDC puts 141 countries at a Level 4 risk, while the State Department’s Level 4 list includes just 34 countries.

The department announced it would be updating its travel advisories this week “to better reflect CDC’s science-based Travel Health Notices” and “also consider logistics like testing availability and travel restrictions for U.S. citizens.”

The CDC’s system of Travel Health Notices focuses only on the health risks faced by travelers. In comparison, the State Department’s travel advisories take in a number of factors, such as terrorist or cartel activity, when fashioning a travel advisory notice for a given country.

New additions this week to the U.S. State Department’s Level 4 category include Canada, Israel, Germany, Mexico, France, India and the U.K, among others.

The advisories are just that – recommendations. Travelers are still free to flow in and out of borders in compliance with whatever entry requirements are in place. With or without the update, however, the department has underscored that it is continuing to urge Americans to reconsider traveling abroad.

“We encourage U.S. citizens to stay connected with us via and through Facebook and Twitter and to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive timely Alerts about evolving health and safety conditions in their planned destinations,” the State Department message advised.