With much of the world still struggling to contain and control the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19, the US Department of State is strongly advising that Americans reconsider their travel abroad to certain countries.
The Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their travel advisories this week, moving 16 countries to the Level-4 alert, including Greece, Ireland, Malta and Iran.
Americans are urged to avoid travel to these places due to increased infection rates. Other popular vacation destinations on Level 4 include the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK, Costa Rica and Panama.
Last year, on August 6, the department announced it was lifting its Global Level 4 Health Advisory, which advised citizens against all international travel. That was originally put in place on March 19, 2020, in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As borders reopened this summer and vaccine campaigns gathered pace, more people began to travel again. But with infection rates high in many places around the world due to the Delta variant, the department notes that travelers, particularly those who are not vaccinated, still face risks associated with COVID-19.
The advisories are regularly updated and align with the CDC’s Travel Health Notices, taking into account factors like the availability of testing and the current travel restrictions for US travelers. Countries who register more than 500 new cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population are designated to the CDC’s Level-4 alert.
The CDC advises people to “avoid travel” to Level-4 destinations but if you must travel, “make sure you are fully vaccinated.” The agency also advises unvaccinated Americans to avoid to Level-3 destinations, where risks associated with COVID-19 remain high, and urges unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to avoid nonessential travel to Level-2 destinations, which are considered “COVID-19 moderate” destinations.
Greece was one of the first European countries to open to American tourists this summer but it has seen an increase in coronavirus case numbers in recent weeks, particularly on the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Ios, Zakynthos and Naxos, which have attracted millions of holidaymakers this summer. Additional police officers have been deployed on Mykonos and Ios to ensure that nightspots are complying with enhanced health and safety measures, but the Guardian reports that the islands could potentially face further COVID restrictions due to rising infection rates among people aged 20 to 30.
“While hotels and family-type venues are implementing protocols diligently, there’s more congestion than we would like to see in bars, especially among the younger crowd… so we are trying to ensure some balance is kept,” the Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis told the newspaper.
Malta and Ireland both reopened to American tourists on July 19, and while both countries are reporting huge success with their vaccination campaigns, the threat of the Delta variant remains present.
If you are traveling abroad, be sure to check your destination’s latest advisory levels here, as well as local public health advice.