CDC Eases COVID-19 Travel Advisories for Dozens of Countries?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an updated travel advisory for more than 120 countries and territories based on the status of their respective COVID-19 outbreaks.

The CDC says its new travel health notice seeks to differentiate between countries with “severe outbreak situations” and those whose outbreak is “sustained but controlled.”

The CDC has created a four-level scale that determines the severity of a particular country’s COVID-19 outbreak to guide Americans who may or may not have been fully vaccinated against the virus. Under the revised guidelines issued Monday, 61 countries and territories were lowered from Level 4, which signifies a “very high” risk of contracting COVID-19, to Level 3, which signifies a “high” risk of contracting the disease.

Among those countries reclassified as Level 3 are Canada, France, Germany and Japan, which is hosting next month’s Tokyo Olympic Games despite a surge of new COVID-19 infections that has sparked growing public opposition to staging the event.

The newly revised CDC guidelines prompted the U.S. State Department Tuesday to issue its own revised travel advisories for dozens of countries Tuesday, moving 58 countries and territories, including Japan, as well as Canada, France and Greece, from its Level 4, or “Do Not Travel” category to Level 3, which is designated “Reconsider Travel.”

But the State Department says its travel advisories do not line up exactly with the CDC’s because it considers other factors, including crime and terrorism, to make its decisions.

Japan has banned foreign spectators from attending the Olympics, which are due to start on July 23.

In Australia, a hard two-week lockdown of its second-largest city Melbourne will end on Thursday. Authorities in the southern state of Victoria initially imposed a statewide lockdown late last month after an overseas traveler tested positive for the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 first detected in India during his mandatory hotel quarantine phase.

Melbourne’s 5 million citizens will still be under some restrictions after Thursday, such as staying within 25 kilometers of their homes, which prevents long-distance travel during an upcoming holiday weekend. Authorities have also imposed mandatory mask mandates for indoors and a total ban on house gatherings.

“This is a good day,” acting Victoria state Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne. “But we know this isn’t over yet, and until we have widespread vaccination across Victoria and across our country, the virus will still be with us.”

The latest lockdown is the fourth one imposed on Melbourne and Victoria state since the start of the pandemic. The most severe period occurred in mid-2020, which lasted more than three months as Victoria was under the grip of a second wave of COVID-19 infections that killed more than 800 people.

The leading infectious disease expert in the United States is warning the nation must increase its COVID-19 vaccination efforts to blunt the Delta variant from spreading across the U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters Tuesday the Delta variant is rapidly becoming “the dominant variant” in Britain, and is peaking among those between 12 and 20 years of age.

Fauci cited recent studies that show both doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.

Fauci says the variant accounts for just 6% of all new infections in the United States.

Source: Voice of America