US to issue COVID-19 travel warnings for 80 percent of countries

Officials will use CDC standards for health travel guidelines, vastly increasing ‘do not travel’ warnings for countries.

The US has not had a global advisory warning against international travel since August [File: Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press]

The State Department has urged Americans to reconsider any international travel they may have planned and said it would issue specific warnings not to visit roughly 80 percent of the world’s countries due to risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

The US has not had a global advisory warning against international travel since August, when guidance was revoked by the administration of former president Donald Trump.

The advice issued by the department is not a formal global advisory. Instead, it says the State Department will start using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards as it prepares health and safety guidelines for individual countries. Because of those standards, about 80 percent of countries will be classified as “Level 4” or “do not travel.”

Travel is also discouraged for the remaining 20 percent, though not as emphatically. It says people with plans to visit those countries should reconsider before proceeding.

The department did not reveal which countries will fall under which category. That will become known as guidance is issued individually for each country in the coming week.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented risks to travelers. In light of those risks, the Department of State strongly recommends US citizens reconsider all travel abroad,” it said.

The department said the new classifications do not necessarily reflect changes in the countries’ health situations, but rather an adjustment in the criteria on which it bases the alerts.

The State Department’s assessments for COVID-19 include infection rates as well as the availability of local testing and treatment.

On Sunday, authorities reported that half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot, raising the prospect the country could achieve herd immunity in the coming months.

To date, there have been over 567,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the US, with over 31 million infections recorded.

The promising domestic vaccine outlook comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of another global surge, with the rate of new infections approaching the highest at any time during the pandemic, according to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies