CDC adds 5 places to ‘high’ risk category for travel

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(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday updated the “high” risk category for travel to five places, including two countries in South America.

Colombia and Paraguay, along with Iraq in the Middle East and Kosovo and North Macedonia in the Balkans, have moved to the level 3 “high” risk category.

Level 3 became the highest rung in terms of risk level in April after the CDC revised its rating system for assessing Covid-19 risk to travelers.

The designation applies to places where there have been more than 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 28 days. Level 2 and Level 1 are considered “moderate” and “low” risk, respectively.

Kosovo has climbed two steps this week from level 1. The other four were previously at level 2.

To recap, these five destinations received a “high” risk designation on Monday:

• Colombia
• Iraq
• Kosovo
• North Macedonia
• Paraguay

As of July 18, there were approximately 115 Level 3 destinations. Level 3 locations account for nearly half of the approximately 235 places monitored by the CDC.

Level 4, previously the highest risk category, is now reserved only for special circumstances, such as extremely high numbers of cases, the emergence of a new care variant or the collapse of the care infrastructure. No destinations have been placed at level 4 so far under the new system.

More at level 3

Much of Europe has been stubbornly stuck at Level 3 for months with the summer travel season in full swing. On July 18, the following popular European destinations were still at level 3:

• France
• Germany
• Greece
• Ireland
• Italy
• The Netherlands
• Norway
• Portugal
• Spain
• United Kingdom

Those aren’t the only high-profile spots that are on Level 3. Numerous other destinations around the world fall into the “high” risk category, including the following:

• Brazil
• Canada
• Costa Rica
• Malaysia
• Mexico
• South Korea
• Thailand
• Turkey

The CDC advises that you be up to date on your Covid-19 vaccines before traveling to a Level 3 destination. Being “up to date” means that you have had not only the full initial vaccinations, but also any boosters you qualify for.

Level 2

Cape Town - with its beautiful mountains, beaches and clear blue waters - is a hotspot for travel in South Africa.  The country is now at level 2.

Cape Town – with its beautiful mountains, beaches and clear blue waters – is a hotspot for travel in South Africa. The country is now at level 2.

Dereje Belachew/Adobe Stock

Destinations labeled “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” reported 50 to 100 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. The CDC designated seven new Level 2 seats on Monday:

• Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast)
• El Salvador
• Swaziland
• Gabon
• Lesotho
• Mauritania
• South Africa

Six of the seven places are in Africa.

The move was good news for Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa, who all went down from level 3.

Gabon, Ivory Coast and Mauritania have all increased in risk level from level 1. The Central American country of El Salvador has also increased by one level of risk.

There are nearly 20 places in the “moderate” risk category this week.

In its broader travel guidance, the CDC recommends being aware of your vaccines before traveling internationally.

Level 1

To be listed as “Level 1: Covid-19 Low”, a destination must have had 49 or fewer new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 28 days. On July 18, a new place was added to the category: Liberia.

There are over 35 places in the “low” risk category this week.

Some of the more popular places in the “low” risk category this week include Indonesia, India and the Philippines.


Finally, there are the destinations that the CDC has deemed an “unknown” risk due to a lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places of ongoing war or unrest. Only one place has been added to this category this week: Sri Lanka.

The CDC does not recommend traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown. Other destinations in this category that tend to attract more tourist attention are French Polynesia, Hungary, Macau and the Maldives.

Nearly 65 places have been listed as “unknown” this week.

A medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are just “one guideline” for travelers’ personal risk assessments, according to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

We have entered “a phase in the pandemic where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical conditions and their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management, said. the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

According to Wen, there are other factors to consider in addition to transmission speeds.

“Another is what precautions are required and followed in the place you go and the third is what you plan to do when you get there,” she said.

“Do you plan to visit a lot of attractions and go to indoor bars? That’s quite different from going somewhere where you plan to lie on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. That’s a lot different. very different levels of risk.”

Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and transmit Covid-19 to others, Wen said.

And it’s also important to consider what you would do if you tested positive outdoors.

“Of course, if people have symptoms or exposure while traveling, they should be tested, and if they test positive, follow the CDC’s isolation guidelines,” Wen recently told CNN Travel.
If you’re concerned about a travel-specific health situation unrelated to Covid-19, check here.

Top image: A nighttime view of Cartagena de Indias, a popular coastal town in Colombia. (sunsinger/Adobe stock)