Another pandemic-era travel precaution has fallen by the wayside: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday discontinued its COVID-19 travel health notices. Each week, the agency had been releasing country-specific travel advisories and a corresponding map that designated countries as either Level 1, 2, 3, or 4 with respect to COVID-19—Level 1 represented countries where there were low incidents of COVID-19, and Level 4 countries were deemed as “do not travel” destinations due to the higher risks posed by high transmission rates or variants of concern.
“As fewer countries are testing or reporting COVID-19 cases, CDC’s ability to accurately assess the COVID-19 levels for most destinations that American travelers visit is limited,” the CDC said in a statement sent to AFAR.
Effective October 3, CDC will only post COVID-19 travel health notices for a country if there is a situation that changes and requires a new recommendation from the agency, such as the emergence of a concerning COVID-19 variant.
In April, the CDC had changed how it classified international destinations under its COVID travel advisory system, reserving Level 4 travel health notices only for extreme circumstances, such as a rapidly escalating case trajectory or the emergence of a new variant of concern. The move meant that the list of countries designated as Level 4 was drastically minimized. The idea was to make it easier for travelers to assess the most critical pandemic-related issues around the world.
For travelers who would like to keep a watch on COVID cases at home and abroad, John Hopkins University maintains a COVID-19 dashboard that continues to outline total cases, deaths, and vaccination rates across the United States and abroad.
No matter the international destination that travelers are heading to, the CDC continues to recommend that everyone is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and that they test before they travel and after arrival. Even though masks are no longer required on flights to and through the United States following an April 18 federal ruling that struck down the U.S. government’s transportation mask mandate, the CDC advises everyone age two and older to wear a well-fitted mask on public transportation and in transportation hubs, including on airplanes and in airports.
“When people properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator, they protect themselves and those around them, and help keep travel and public transportation safer for everyone,” the CDC states.
On June 12, the CDC lifted the COVID-19 testing requirement for entering the United States from abroad that had been in place since January 2021. All travelers, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status, no longer need to show a negative COVID test to come into the U.S.—a process that for many had become a nerve-wracking scramble to obtain the needed results within one day of travel to the U.S.
While the CDC has done away with its regularly updated COVID-19 travel advisories, it continues to maintain health notices on its international travel page, where travelers can find information about a wide variety of outbreaks and public health issues in the country or countries they are planning to visit. These are divided into Level 1: “practice usual precautions”; Level 2: “practice enhanced precautions”; and Level 3: “avoid nonessential travel.” They inform travelers about everything from Zika and Ebola outbreaks to health and safety threats posed by natural disasters, such as the recent floods in Pakistan.
The CDC’s COVID-19 travel system is separate from individual country requirements for travelers that are issued by each government. While many COVID-related entry restrictions have also fallen by the wayside, there are countries that continue to have some rules in place for international arrivals, whether in regard to vaccination status, testing, and/or quarantines. It’s important for travelers to continue to stay up to date on the latest entry requirements for the destinations they plan to visit.
A good resource for identifying current entry rules is the U.S. State Department, which maintains a list of detailed country-specific COVID-19 travel information that includes entry requirements and whether testing is widely available. It also issues travel advisories for individual countries that take into account many additional safety factors beyond public health issues, including threat of war, violence, and other humanitarian and natural crises.
Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.