The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added five new destinations to its “high” risk category for travelers on Monday, including the Central American country of Belize, the Bahamas archipelago in the North Atlantic, the mountainous British overseas island territory of Montserrat, the Caribbean island country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the southern African country of Eswatini. Four of these destinations were previously listed as Level 2, or “moderate” risk: Bahamas, Belize, Eswatini and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Montserrat moved up two risk levels from Level 1 or “low” risk.
In April, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its ratings system for assessing country risk for travelers.The Level 3 “high” risk category is now the top rung in terms of risk level. Level 2 is considered “moderate” risk, and Level 1 is “low” risk.Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as extremely high case counts or health care infrastructure collapse. Under the new system, no destinations have been placed at Level 4 so far.
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Overall, the past four weeks of advisories have been relatively stable, with no dramatic shifts in status that characterized this past winter and early spring during the original Omicron variant surge.
The “Level 3: Covid-19 High” category applies to countries that have had more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. As of May 23rd, the following popular European destinations were among those remaining at Level 3:
• The Netherlands
• United Kingdom
The following notable travel destinations are among those that find themselves at Level 3, according to the U.S. Department of State’s most recent Travel Warning:
• Costa Rica
• South Korea
As of May 23, there were about 115 Level 3 travel locations. Level 3 locations now account for nearly half of the roughly 235 places monitored by the CDC.The CDC advises you get up-to-date with your Covid-19 vaccines before traveling to a Level 3 destination. Being “up-to-date” means you have had not only the full initial vaccinations but any boosters for which you’re eligible.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in the past 28 days, 50 to 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents have been reported in destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation. Three places were moved to this level on Monday:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest risk levels for travel to any global destination on Monday, moving Kuwait from Level 3 (“Do Not Travel”) to Level 2 (“Exercise Increased Caution”). Jamaica and Mongolia have each moved one risk level from Level 1 (“Low” Risk) to 2. Fewer than 20 countries were listed at Level 2 on Monday.
To be in Level 1: Covid-19 Low, a destination must have had 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days. Egypt has been added to that category as of May 23.
Egypt had been listed as “unknown.”
Level 1 had nearly 55 entries as of Monday.
Finally, there are destinations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have deemed to be of “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing warfare or unrest.
On Monday, the CDC added Mauritania to its list of places with a risk of Ebola. This list now includes French Polynesia and the Azores, which were previously at Level 1. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown. Others in this category include Cambodia and Tanzania.
A medical expert weighs in on risk levels
According to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, transmission rates are just one guidepost for travelers’ risk calculations.
Dr. Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, said that people need to make their own decisions about whether or not to contract Covid-19 based on their medical circumstances as well as their risk tolerance.
According to Wen, there are other factors to weigh in addition to transmission rates.
“If you’re going to a place where there is a risk of getting something, then the first thing is to think about what are you going to do if you get it,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place that you’re going and then the third is what are you planning to do once you’re there.” The first step is getting vaccinated for the disease in question, since unvaccinated travelers are more likely to become ill and transmit 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 stay and how easy will it be to get a test to return home?