(CNSNews.com) – The State Department on Thursday lifted its global level four – “do not travel” – advisory for U.S. citizens, indicating that as the coronavirus pandemic evolves it makes sense once again to differentiate between countries facing different situations.
Instead of counseling against all international travel, the department now is now advising citizens not to travel to 55 countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Europe, they include only Russia and Kosovo. (The full list appears at the bottom of the page.)
Major countries on the list include China – where the outbreak first emerged late last year – Argentina, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia.
“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in a statement.
“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country. We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”
The changed advice from the department, in close consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is separate from other countries’ decisions on whether or not to allow Americans to enter.
For instance Canada, which is not one of the 55 countries the department is advising Americans not to visit, continues to restrict entry to non-nationals. The only foreign nationals eligible to travel to Canada are immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents, those traveling for an essential purpose, or those exempt for various specified reasons.
“Canada's borders remain closed to all non-essential travel, while still permitting the flow of essential goods and services,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted on Thursday. “Decisions on when to gradually re-open will be made by Canadians and for Canadians.”
The State Department travel advisory levels are:
LEVEL FOUR: Do not travel
LEVEL THREE: Reconsider travel
LEVEL TWO: Exercise increased caution
LEVEL ONE: Exercise normal precautions
Apart from the 55 “do not travel” countries, almost all others now carry a “reconsider travel” advisory as from Thursday.
Nine countries or territories carry “exercise increased caution” (level two) advisories – Antarctica, Brunei, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and Thailand. Most of those places have recorded low COVID-19 death tolls, or are reported to have the epidemic under control. (Thailand, with 58 deaths, and Hong Kong, with 46 deaths, are the worst-hit of the nine.)
And just two travel destinations are on level one, “exercise normal precautions” – Taiwan (477 cases, seven deaths) and the Chinese territory of Macao (46 cases, no deaths).
The department said the advisories “are informed by CDC’s expert judgment of the health situation as well as other factors related to travel, infrastructure, healthcare resources, and potential closures and restrictions in the country which are important for U.S. citizens to consider.”
“We are closely monitoring health and safety conditions across the globe, working in partnership with the CDC and other agencies,” it said. “As always, we will regularly update our destination-specific advice to U.S. travelers as conditions evolve.”
The 55 “do not travel” countries are mostly those where concerns about the pandemic persist, although some are listed due to security and terrorism concerns.
By comparison, before the outbreak in Wuhan, only 14 countries carried level four warnings – countries where conflict, terrorism, or civil unrest were prevalent, or whose regimes are hostile to the U.S. They were Afghanistan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
The 55 countries which U.S. citizens are now being advised not to visit are: Afghanistan, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, North Korea, Oman, Panama, Peru, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, The Bahamas, The Kyrgyz Republic, Venezuela, and Yemen.
For specific country advisories, see here.