Another forbidden destination in times of pandemic?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added 15 destinations to its "very high" risk list for COVID-19, including several countries in Latin America and caribbean islands.
The CDC places a destination at level 4, "very high" risk, when there are more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.
The agency advises travelers to avoid traveling to Tier 4 countries.
The 15 places added this week, after the previous one added 22 countries, are:
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- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Barthélemy
- Saint Martin
- United Arab Emirates
Caribbean island destinations (Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin) accounted for a third of new arrivals this week.
Haiti, which is located on the island of Hispaniola next to the Dominican Republic, was already at Tier 4.
Other popular Caribbean destinations were also already at Tier 4. These include Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Two mainland countries with Caribbean coastlines, Costa Rica in Central America and Colombia in South America, are also at Tier 4.
The Inca site of Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist spot in Peru.
On Monday, Peru moved to the CDC's highest risk level for covid-19.
(Ernesto Benavides/AFP via Getty Images)
Added to Level 4 this week were other top travel spots the CDC suggests travelers avoid: Peru, where Machu Picchu is located, and the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located.
Last week, 14 of the 15 destinations were at Level 3, which is considered "high" risk for covid-19.
Niger, a landlocked nation in West Africa best known for its ancient caravan towns, had been in Tier 1, considered "low" risk.
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The Tier 4 roster now has almost 120 spots.
As of early January, there were around 80 destinations, further demonstrating the reach of the omicron variant.
You can see the CDC's risk levels for global destinations on their travel advice page.
The CDC does not include the United States on its advisory list, but the country was color-coded as Level 4 on January 24 on the agency's map of travel risk levels.
In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
situation in Europe
While most of the Caribbean is moving to Tier 4 this week, nearly all of Europe has been there for weeks or months.
Those places include some of the biggest names on the continent:
- United Kingdom
Romania is the only new European addition to Tier 4 this week.
Additions to level 3
The Taj Mahal mausoleum is the iconic symbol of India, which has undergone great changes due to covid-19.
Cases of the omicron variant in India are increasing and it has been moved to CDC Tier 3.
(Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)
The Tier 3 category, which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days, added 10 destinations this Monday:
- Equatorial Guinea
- Republic of the Congo
Four of the destinations—Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa, Japan, Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, and Senegal in West Africa—had been at "low" risk level 1.
The remaining six had been at Level 2.
Levels 2, 1 and unknown
Destinations that carry the "Level 2: Moderate Covid-19" designation have recorded 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days.
That level had just two new additions this Monday.
These are Bangladesh, which had been in Tier 1, and the tiny sultanate of Brunei, which had been listed as "unknown" last week.
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.
No new additions were made on Monday.
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China, which will host the Winter Olympics in February, has been in Tier 1 since May 2021. It is one of a dozen destinations currently in Tier 1.
Finally, there are destinations that the CDC assigns an "unknown" risk due to lack of information.
Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing wars or riots.
There were no additions this week.
Popular destinations at "unknown" risk include Cambodia, French Polynesia and Tanzania.
The CDC advises against traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.
A Norwegian Gem cruise ship docked at the Port of Miami in 2021.
The CDC includes cruise ships on its list of destinations.
On December 30, the CDC increased the risk of cruise travel to Level 4 and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.
Cruisers remained at Tier 4 in the last update.
Meanwhile, the CDC's COVID-19 guidance has become optional for many cruise ships.
The CDC's extended conditional sailing order recently expired, and the agency has transitioned to a voluntary program for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters.
Transmission rates are important to consider when making travel decisions, but there are other factors to weigh as well, according to Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, ER Physician and Professor of Health Policy and Management. at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
"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 closed bars? That's very different than going to a place where you plan to be on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. Those are very different levels of risk."
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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.
He further said that people should wear a high-quality mask (N95, KN95, or KF94) whenever they are in crowded indoor settings with unknown vaccination status.
Before you travel, it's also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home, Wen said.
Where will you be staying and how easy will it be to get tested to return home?