The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said to avoid travel to France, Portugal, Cyprus, Andorra and Liechtenstein, grouping all in a Level 4 category that represents a “very high” level of the coronavirus. Countries and territories in this group have an infection incidence rate of more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days (or, in places with fewer than 100,000 residents, more than 500 cases cumulatively over the past 28 days).
The countries were given a Level 4 warning, which means the CDC is recommending that Americans avoid traveling there, even if vaccinated. They join other European destinations on the Level 4 list, including some that were added recently — Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey last week — and others that have been on the list for months, such as Britain.
Originally Published: 20 DEC 21 16:21 ET
Updated: 21 DEC 21 06:15 ET
By Forrest Brown, CNN
(CNN) — The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added eight destinations to its highest-risk category for travel on Monday, including the world’s No. 2 most-visited nation before the pandemic started.
In its weekly update of Covid-19 travel advisories, the CDC advised against travel to tourist favorite Spain at this time. In 2019, Spain received more international visitors than nearly every other nation in the world, except France, according to figures from the UN’s World Tourism Organization.
The CDC also added seven more places — spanning the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East as well as Europe — to its “Level 4: Covid-19 Very High” category. They are:
• San Marino
The CDC places a destination at Level 4 when more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents are registered in the past 28 days.
Three tiny destinations in Europe — Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino — provide a cautionary example about traveling to places without reliable statistics. They all shot up to Level 4 on Monday from the CDC’s “unknown” risk category. Destinations are put there when there is a lack of reliable information coming from them to the CDC.
Spain, Finland and Lebanon all moved up from Level 3, which is considered “high risk.” Spain’s designation comes even as it boasts impressive vaccination stats. As of December 17, more than 80% of the population had been fully vaccinated.
The landlocked northern African nation of Chad had previously been at Level 1, the “low risk” category.
Surging cases, Omicron worries and travel bans
Travel to and across Europe is becoming increasingly hard for tourists, particularly those from the United Kingdom, where cases have skyrocketed. France has placed a ban on all nonessential visitors to and from the UK.
Several countries in Europe have introduced new restrictions over the past few days as the Covid-19 surge there continues.
The Netherlands entered a strict lockdown on Sunday, with nonessential shops, hospitality venues and cultural institutions closing.
Some Christmas markets in Europe are still planning to operate, but others, including the Munich market, have been canceled.
Cruise line Royal Caribbean says at least 48 people on board Symphony of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship, have tested positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the entire world continues to monitor Omicron.
First announced by South African health authorities in late November, the variant has prompted various travel bans on nations in southern Africa. The CDC moved seven southern African nations to Level 4 on November 27 specifically because of Omicron (an eighth nation, Botswana, was already at Level 4). All of those nations remained at Level 4 on Monday.
And the United States implemented tighter travel rules on December 6 because of concern about the variant.
Other nations on Level 4
Spain is hardly alone. Much of Europe is currently ranked at the highest travel risk. Other big travel names already at the CDC’s Level 4 include:
• United Kingdom
And Europe isn’t the only continent with popular tourist destinations on Level 4. Among the other places also considered at “very high” risk for travel are:
• South Africa
In all, almost 90 countries were rated Level 4 as of December 20.
You can view the CDC’s risk levels for global destinations on its travel recommendations page.
Level 3 news
The Level 3 category — which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days — just saw two new additions on Monday:
• St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The move was good for the Caribbean island-nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which had been at Level 4. However, it was bad news for South America’s Peru, which had been at Level 2 since early October.
Level 2, Level 1 and unknowns
Destinations carrying the “Level 2: Covid-19 Moderate” designation have seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. It only saw one addition on Monday, that of St. Pierre and Miquelon. The tiny French territory off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, previously had been at Level 1.
In the category of “Level 1: Covid-19 Low” destinations, fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents have been logged over the past 28 days. It saw no new additions on Monday.
Finally, there are destinations, as cited above, for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk because of a lack of information. On Monday, it added four places to this category:
• Falkland Islands
• French Guiana
The CDC cautions even fully vaccinated travelers about venturing to destinations with no reliable statistics about the current Covid-19 situation.
In its broader travel guidance, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
“Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread Covid-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some Covid-19 variants,” the agency said.
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The CDC gave Hungary, Iceland, the Czech Republic and Guernsey a Level 4 warning, which means it is recommending that Americans avoid traveling, even if vaccinated. They join other European destinations on the Level 4 list, including some that were added recently — Luxembourg and the Netherlands, for example — and others that have been on the list for months, such as the United Kingdom.
The seven-day moving average of new cases was 121,437 as of Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Prior to this week, the US last topped the 100,000-cases-a-day mark in early October.
Also on the rise is the number of Covid-19 deaths, with a seven-day average of 1,651 people dying from the virus each day as of Saturday, the JHU data showed. Average daily deaths haven’t been this high in more than a month.
The first case was found in California on Wednesday, and by the weekend the variant had been identified in 15 other states: Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Still, the US is more equipped now to deal with the newly detected variant than it was during the onset of the pandemic, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday.
“We are in such a different place now than we were one year ago because we’ve learned a lot more. We have vaccines available. We have far more tests available, and what we’ve got to do to get through this winter is to make sure that we are doubling down on our vaccination strategy,” Murthy told CNN.
The surgeon general stressed that even though there’s a lot to learn about the new variant, mitigation efforts, including masks and hand hygiene combined with physical distancing, remain effective in providing some protection.
Delta remains the dominant strain in the world
While the Omicron variant has the potential to become the dominant strain in the US, the Delta variant continues to show up in 99.9% of coronavirus cases, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.
“We know what we need to do against Delta, and that is get vaccinated, get boosted if you’re eligible and continue all of those prevention measures, including masking. And those are very likely to work against the Omicron variant,” Walensky told CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
“Even if the Omicron strain doesn’t turn out to be any worse, we are losing close to a thousand people every day from the Delta variant, and that in and of itself is a reason for people to get boosted,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC, told CNN earlier this week.
Stricter travel rules to begin Monday
Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this week that traveling during the holidays is OK — but getting vaccinated and boosted are a must.
Plus, any foreign national who travels to the US must be fully vaccinated, though there is no vaccination requirement for American citizens for air travel, either globally or domestically.
However, the White House said this week that a vaccine requirement for domestic travel remained on the table as an option for the future.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Jamie Gumbrecht, Jen Christensen, Maggie Fox, Travis Caldwell and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
About 65 percent of meeting planner respondents have events on the books for the fourth quarter of 2021, and 62 percent expect to plan at least the same number of meetings and events of all types in 2022 than they did in 2019, according to a new report from meetings data provider Knowland and global meetings company ConferenceDirect.
The companies between Oct. 1-25 surveyed more than 450 ConferenceDirect meeting planners for the report, titled “The State of the Meetings Industry.”
About 16 percent of respondents said at least three-quarters of registrants to their current hybrid meetings are in-person attendees, while 22 percent said it was between half and three-quarters. About 33 percent reported less than 10 percent of registrants were for the in-person portion of their events.
Half of respondents said they have a hybrid or virtual technology vendor, while more than one-quarter (26 percent) handle the requirements in-house.
When it comes to sourcing venues, 32 percent of respondents said they are “very satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with the responsiveness to their requests. Nearly half (47 percent) said they were “moderately satisfied.” Further, nearly 52 percent said that responding in a timely manner to requests was the most important action hotels and venues could take to increase planner satisfaction. About 43 percent said the most important action from suppliers would be to offer terms that are flexible with pandemic changes.
The top three concerns related to returning to in-person meetings were budget availability (35 percent), hotels and venues staffed to pre-Covid-19 service levels (30 percent) and the method for proof of Covid-19 vaccination (27 percent).
More than half of respondents (54 percent) expect to see higher meeting-space fees, while about 29 percent anticipate amenity-based pricing.
There are also travel apps that can help you keep tabs on pandemic concerns, such as TripIt. Once you plug in your itinerary, TripIt provides a link to a “COVID-19 Summary” showing coronavirus restrictions, guidelines, infection and vaccination rates, as well as vaccination requirements, among other details for the place you’re going to visit.
Overall U.S. business travel volume remains on track to grow steadily until 2024, when it should fully recover to per-pandemic 2019 levels, according to a new forecast from the U.S. Travel Association.
The organizations project 2021 U.S. business transient and group spending to total $93 billion and $43 billion, respectively, up from $59 billion and $28 billion in 2020 but well shy of the pr-Covid levels of $157 billion and $113 billion in 2019.
Those spending figures should increase steadily in 2022 and 2023, according to the forecast. Then, 2024 U.S. business transient and group spending is projected to reach $164 billion and $113 billion, at least matching 2019 levels.
“While we see much reason for optimism on the horizon, our forecast reveals that travel’s recovery is uneven with much work ahead to ensure all segments reach pre-pandemic levels,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a statement. “We believe that the U.S. can implement smart, effective policies that bring back international visitors more quickly and spur business and professional travel to accelerate an economic and jobs rebound.”
Among those policies the U.S. federal government should implement, according to the association, are steps to ensure the Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Border Protection operations are fully staffed and the enactment of a temporary tax credit for meeting venues, event organizers and small business to help spur meeting demand. The organization also has called for temporarily allowing the full tax deductibility of business entertainment expenses.
MMBC Joins U.S. Travel
Meanwhile, the Meetings Mean Business Coalition has integrated into U.S. Travel, the association announced Monday.
The coalition formed in the wake of the 2007-08 economic downturn, a time when extravagant corporate events were drawing criticism, to stress the economic and business importance of meetings. Joining U.S. Travel will allow MMBC to “benefit more directly from the association’s robust public affairs resources and advocacy network while providing greater value to coalition members as business travel and professional meetings and events rebuilds from steep pandemic-related losses,” according to the organization.
It wasn’t clear if the move included financial considerations, and U.S. Travel didn’t immediately return a request for clarification.
While the US is among the countries recording the highest numbers of new COVID-19 cases worldwide, Europe is fast becoming a COVID-19 hotspot. Last week the region accounted for 60% of all new coronavirus cases worldwide, the New York Times reports, but some countries are faring worse than others, including the Netherlands. It was designated a “high-risk” country due to rising cases and deaths, and Americans are now urged to avoid traveling there, regardless of vaccination status. The UK also has some of the highest new case numbers and it remains at Level 4 in the latest round of travel advisory updates, as well as popular destinations such as Ireland, Greece and Costa Rica.
The advisories aim to inform US residents about risks associated with traveling overseas, so people can make better-informed decisions about travel and enjoy relatively safe trips. If you plan to travel soon, here’s what you need to know about the latest travel guidelines.
What is a travel advisory?
The ongoing risks associated with COVID-19, particularly as new variants emerge, present challenges and uncertainties for travel. To make the experience a little less confusing, the Department of State has aligned its security travel advisories with the CDC’s science-based Travel Health Notices to warn travelers about dangers and COVID-19 threats overseas.
Level 4 travel advisory
Level 4 is the highest alert. Countries that register more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 28 days per 100,000 population are designated to the CDC’s Level-4 list. Under CDC guidelines, people are asked to “avoid travel” to Level 4 destinations—but if they must travel, they should be fully vaccinated.
The Department of State takes this information into account, also looking at factors such as political instability, natural disasters and the threat of terrorism or violent crime. “[Level 4] is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks,” the Department explains. In the context of COVID-19, Americans are urged to avoid travel to these places due to increased infection rates and COVID-19 variants.
What countries are at Level 4?
The Dutch government is meeting today to discuss reintroducing lockdown measures to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates as per Dutch News. The publication reports that case numbers “are reaching record levels” and some entertainment venues could close, while hospitality businesses could be forced to cut back operating hours. As of October 22, 2021, the Netherlands only permits vaccinated Americans to enter.
From October 19, Singapore has permitted quarantine-free entry to travelers from the US, UK, Canada, France and more as its vaccination rates nudges closer to 85%. But while Singapore is welcoming travelers, the US government is advising Americans not to go. That’s because case numbers have hit the “high-risk” threshold in recent weeks.
Other destinations at Level 4 include the Ireland, the UK, Cuba, Costa Rica, Israel, Switzerland, Turkey, Barbados, Belize, Aruba, French Polynesia, the Cayman Islands, Faroe Islands, Luxembourg and more.
Level 3 advisory
The CDC advises unvaccinated Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Level 3 destinations, where risks associated with COVID-19 remain high. Some popular destinations designated Level 3 include Italy, Cyprus, Canada, the Netherlands, Morocco, Chile, Croatia, Colombia, Egypt, Sweden, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and—most recently—Thailand, Panama, Portugal, Spain, and Brazil.
Level 2 advisory
Level 2 places are considered “COVID-19 moderate” destinations by the CDC. When traveling to these places people are asked to “practice enhanced precautions”. The CDC also urges unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to avoid nonessential travel to Level 2 destinations. Some countries currently at Level 2 include Peru, South Korea, India, Zimbabwe, the Czech Republic, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates.
Level 1 advisory
Level 1 destinations are considered “low-risk” countries. People traveling to these places are asked to “exercise normal precautions” by the Department of State. Given the scale of the pandemic, not many countries are considered low-risk. Some countries at Level 1 include Djibouti, Senegal and Rwanda, which recently relaxed entry rules for vaccinated arrivals.
Should I cancel my trip to a Level 4 country?
The answer is up to you. Travel advisories are guidelines, not rules. You are still permitted to travel to these places, but if you choose to go a country the government is advising you to avoid, you do so at your own risk. In some extreme cases—that is, countries where there is civil unrest, widespread violence and political instability—the Department warns that some consular services may not be available to you and advises travelers to “always have a contingency plan for emergency situations”.
If I do travel, do I need to quarantine?
It depends on your destination. These travel advisories and travel health notices are set out by the US government and the CDC, not the governments of the individual countries. For example, Ireland is at Level 4 but the Irish government is permitting Americans to travel there.
Will my travel insurance cover me in a Level 4 country?
How often do these advisories change?
The Department of State confirms it reviews and updates travel advisories “as needed, based on security and safety information.”
Anyone considering heading abroad should read the entire travel advisory for their destination at Travel.State.gov; in addition to the destination’s border restrictions and entry requirements—and stay up-to-date on local public health guidelines.
This article was first published on August 6, 2020 and updated on November 11, 2021