The U.S. State Department on Thursday announced that it has lifted its Global Level 4 Health Advisory—a sweeping recommendation that was put in place on March 19, 2020, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The decision to lift the international travel advisory was made in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” State Department officials said in a press release about the decision.
The State Department said that the move is intended to provide U.S. citizens with more precise information about what is going on in each individual country. The federal agency is working with the CDC and other agencies to closely monitor health and safety conditions throughout the world so that it can regularly update its destination-specific advice.
The latest country-specific updates and advisories are listed on the State Department website, and U.S. citizens traveling abroad can also search for the country or countries they plan on visiting at travel.state.gov.
“We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic,” the release stated.
The State Department has a complete list of which level it has assigned to which country based on the new classifications, ranging from Level 1: “exercise normal precautions,” to Level 4: “do not travel.” Currently, two countries have a Level 1 classification—Macau and Taiwan. Hong Kong, Antarctica, Brunei, Fiji, French Polynesia, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Thailand all have a Level 2 advisory (“exercise increased caution”). And the remaining countries either have a Level 3 (“reconsider travel”) or Level 4 advisory. You can sort them by country or by level.
The State Department’s decision comes a little more than one week after the World Health Organization (WHO) said countries should work toward more permanent solutions for reopening international borders—with safeguards in place.
“It is going to be almost impossible for individual countries to keep their borders shut for the foreseeable future,” Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, stated during the organization’s July 27 press briefing. “Economies have to open up, people have to work, trade has to resume.”
Several major airlines have also banded together to call on the United States and the European Union to restore transatlantic air travel by deploying a joint COVID-19 testing program.
The State Department travel advisories are just that—advice. They offer travelers U.S. government-backed input on international travel. Travelers are not required to abide by them. They can, however, impact things such as travel insurance policies (for instance, destinations with a particularly stringent State Department warning might not be covered by an insurance provider) and even which destinations travel companies make available to U.S. travelers.
While the global travel advisory has been lifted, numerous international travel bans remain in place, including to Europe from the United States and from Europe to the United States (with some exceptions), and those are being strictly enforced. Countries throughout the world still have varying degrees of travel restrictions in place, including for U.S. travelers.