The State Department is expanding its Do Not Travel advisories to include up to 80% of countries worldwide. This increase amounts to about 130 countries. Blame it on the coronavirus pandemic and recent spikes in the virus. The State Department cites an “unprecedented risk to travelers”.
The current “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list includes Chad, Kosovo, Kenya, Brazil, Argentina, Haiti, Mozambique, Russia, and Tanzania, The decision is cushioned with a clarification that the State Department is taking guidance from the CDC. In other words, blame the CDC.
“This alignment better reflects the current, unpredictable, and ever-evolving threat posed by covid-19,” the department said in an email. “We continue to strongly recommend U.S. citizens reconsider all travel abroad, and postpone their trips if possible.”
In a media note, the department said the change doesn’t “imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country,” but instead indicates a change in the advisory system to rely more heavily on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The note said that in addition to reflecting the travel health notices put out by the CDC, the advisories also consider “logistical factors” such as the availability of in-country testing and travel restrictions for U.S. citizens.
This announcement comes at a time that the air travel industry is ramping up for anticipated increases in travel as more Americans are vaccinated and the virus begins to wane in the U.S. The State Department recommends that travelers read up on any risks they may face if traveling to other countries. Other countries are beginning to re-open their borders to allow foreign travelers in. For example, Greece began allowing U.S. citizens in with either a negative coronavirus test or proof of vaccination. United Airlines announced new flights to Greece, Iceland, and Croatia will begin in July. Most of Europe remains closed to American travelers. The U.S. has banned travel by non-U.S. citizens who have been in Europe, China, Brazil, Iran, and South Africa. (Insert snark here that the border with Mexico is open. Just walk across the border, no plane ticket needed.) There was no timeline given for when the new restrictions will expire.
American Airlines already announced a decrease in flights to South America. It cites the COVID-19 pandemic. Some flights will be suspended until November, others until July.
The U.S. airline said it was suspending service to Manaus, Brazil, from Miami until Nov. 2 and delaying the start of service from New York to Santiago until July 2, instead of the planned May 7 start. It will also reduce the frequency of flights to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil, and to Lima from some U.S. airports.
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 20, 2021
The messaging from CDC and the Biden administration has been confusing, to say the least. The airline carriers have noticed inconsistencies in guidance.
Asked for comment on the State Department announcement, Airlines for America, a trade group representing major U.S. carriers, said “the U.S. airline industry has been a strong advocate for the development of a risk-based, data-driven roadmap for restoring international travel.”
The group added it continues “to urge the federal government to transparently establish the criteria – including clear metrics, benchmarks, and a timeline – for reopening international markets.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky added to the confusion in messaging for travel earlier this month when she said, sure, if you’ve been vaccinated, you can travel safely. Then she turned around and said, don’t travel. You can, but don’t. What this does is just confuse everyone and offer false hope to those who want to travel to see family and friends from whom they have been separated for over a year due to the pandemic restrictions. Go, but don’t go. Now, if someone was looking into, say, South America to visit anyone or perhaps book a business trip, that plan is on the back burner again.
Earlier this month, the CDC said people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely travel within the United States at “low risk” but CDC Director Rochelle Walensky discouraged Americans from doing so because of high coronavirus cases nationwide.
“We know that right now we have a surging number of cases. I would advocate against general travel overall,” Walensky said on April 2. “We are not recommending travel at this time, especially for unvaccinated individuals.”
This is why so many people are ready to send Dr. Fauci and the CDC officials off with a pat on the back and a thank you for their service. They have outstayed their welcome. The messaging on pandemic mitigation has been confusing from the start – don’t wear a mask, do wear a mask, stay away from everyone not within your household, schools must remain closed, protests are ok but not church services. Common sense measures and personal responsibility is how most people go about surviving the pandemic. The CDC director was in tears over her belief that a fourth wave is upon us and the disaster it would be and then shortly after that, she says travel is ok if you are vaccinated, just don’t do it. The pandemic outbreaks require adjustments, to be sure, but consistent messaging is crucial for public confidence. Otherwise, no one is listening to anyone else.