August 6, 2020

State Department lifts global advisory on avoiding international travel amid COVID-19 pandemic


The U.S. State Department lifted its advisory on avoiding international travel, put in place five months ago. 

The agency said Thursday in a news release that lifting the global health advisory, issued at the highest alert level – 4 – March 19, was done in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“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 … in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the release said.

The customary level 1 through 4 advisories for specific countries on provide more detailed information about specific conditions in individual countries.

“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country,” the department said. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”

As of Thursday, the State Department advised against travel to more than 50 countries designated by level 4, “do not travel” advisories. Those include countries with a high number of coronavirus cases, such as Brazil, India and Russia in addition to countries where there are other safety concerns. The department urged citizens to “reconsider travel” – with level 3 alerts – to many more. 

“We are closely monitoring health and safety conditions across the globe, working in partnership with the CDC and other agencies,” the State Department said Thursday. “As always, we will regularly update our destination-specific advice to U.S. travelers as conditions evolve.”

The CDC also has a travel notice system and recommends against “nonessential travel” to much of the world.

Where can Americans even go?

The list of places where Americans can go isn’t that extensive.

Several spots in the Caribbean and Mexico are welcoming guests again and drawing U.S. tourists as airlines resume and add flights. United Airlines said Friday it is adding flights to St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Bahamas touted its reopening July 1 but changed its mind a few weeks later because of an uptick in coronavirus cases in the USA. It banned commercial flights from the USA as of July 22.

The popular islands off the coast of Florida adjusted their stance again a week later, to allow U.S. travelers as long as they present a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for 14 days, the latter of which still effectively rules out vacations. Southwest Airlines suspended its service to Nassau through October, American Airlines through August.

European countries reopened their borders, but most are off-limits to U.S. vacationers.  A couple that welcome U.S. visitors: Croatia and Turkey. 

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Canada is off-limits as the border remains closed and only essential travel is permitted, even by air.

Keep these 6 things in mind: What to know before you book an international trip during the pandemic

The State Department’s “do not travel” global travel warning came March 19, four days after it issued a level 3 advisory urging Americans to “reconsider travel.” 

At that time, there were about 380,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide. As of Thursday, there are 18.9 million, according to Johns Hopkins data, 4.9 million of which are in the USA. 


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