More than two dozen travel destinations see declining CDC risk levels

(CNN) — For the second week in a row, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not add a single new destination to its Tier 4 highest-risk travel category.

More than a dozen destinations, including Canada and several Caribbean nations, dropped from Tier 4 to Tier 3 on Monday.

The CDC places a destination in Level 4 “very high” risk when there are more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. The Tier 3 “high” risk category applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

In total, 14 destinations moved to Tier 3 on April 4:

• Old and bearded
• Argentina
• Armenian
• Azerbaijan
• Belize
• Canada
• Grenade
• Iran
• Libya
• Oman
• Panama
• Paraguay
• St. Lucia
• Suriname

All 14 places were previously listed as Tier 4. The CDC recommends avoiding travel to Tier 4 countries.

CDC thresholds for travel health advisories are primarily based on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.

While the CDC does not include the United States on its advisory list, it is part of its color-coded global map of travel risk levels. On Monday, the United States joined its neighbor to the north in moving to level 3 color coding on the map.

Decreasing risk levels is a bright spot in the travel landscape. Still, nearly 100 destinations remained at Level 4 on April 4, about 40% of the nearly 240 locations the CDC covers.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.

Changes in level 2, level 1 and ‘unknown’ status

Botswana, where wildlife safaris in the Okavango Delta are a big tourist draw, was downgraded to level 2 on Monday.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Moderate Covid-19” designation have seen 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The five new Tier 2 entries on April 4 are:

• Botswana
• Eswatini
• Iraq
• South Africa
• Dominican Republic

All but Iraq had been at Tier 3. Iraq was previously at Tier 4.

To be in “Tier 1: Low Covid-19”, a destination must have less than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. Six places moved to Tier 1 on Monday:

• Ghana
• Jamaica
• Malawi
• Morocco
• Nepalese
• Pakistan

All six had been in Tier 2. Tier 1 is dominated by destinations in Africa. Only seven places in Tier 1 are outside of Africa.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk due to lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing wars or riots.

The CDC made three additions to the unknown category on Monday: French Guiana, Greenland and Ukraine.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has undoubtedly disrupted the testing, treatment and collection of Covid-19 case numbers.

The Azores, Cambodia, Macau and Tanzania are among the most visited places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.

A medical expert assesses risk levels

Transmission rates are “a guide” to estimates of personal risk for travelers, according to Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst.

We are in “a phase of the pandemic where people need to make their own decisions based on their medical circumstances and risk tolerance when it comes to contracting COVID-19,” Wen said.

“You have to interpret Level 4 to mean this is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go, there’s a higher chance you could catch the coronavirus,” said Wen, who is an emergency medicine physician and professor of medicine. health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m willing to take that risk.’

“So this really has to be a personal decision that people weigh and understand that right now the CDC is classifying the different tiers based on community transmission rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They’re not taking individual circumstances into account.”

More travel considerations

There are other factors to consider besides transmission rates, according to Wen.

“Transmission rates are a guide,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are required and followed where you’re going and then the third is what you plan to do once you’re there.

“Do you plan to visit a lot of attractions and go to bars inside? That’s very different from going to a place where you plan to lay on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s very different. Those are very high levels of risk.” different”.

Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and spread COVID-19 to others, Wen said.

And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home. Where will you be staying and how easy will it be to get tested to return home?

Top Image: A view of the Château Frontenac in Quebec City. (Alice Chiche/AFP via Getty Images)

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