US govt to cut back on 'do not travel' COVID advisories

Out of about 215 countries and territories that it rates, the department currently lists nearly 120 at "Level Four: Do Not Travel", including much of Europe Japan, Israel and Russia.

 Passengers walk at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Queens, New York City, US, December 26, 2021.  (photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)
Passengers walk at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Queens, New York City, US, December 26, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JEENAH MOON)

The US State Department said Thursday it will sharply cut back on "Do Not Travel" advisories for international destinations after public health officials announced a change in how they will assess COVID-19 concerns.

Out of about 215 countries and territories that it rates, the department currently lists nearly 120 at "Level Four: Do Not Travel", including much of Europe Japan, Israel and Russia.

The department said its update "will leave approximately 10% of all travel advisories at Level 4" including all risk factors, not just COVID. "We believe the updated framework will help US citizens make better informed decisions about the safety of international travel," it said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday said it would shrink from around 90 the countries it rates as Level 4, starting Monday.

Airlines and other travel groups have been pressing the Biden administration to lift the pre-departure COVID negative test requirements for international travelers, as many other countries have done.

People travel during the holiday season at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (credit: EMILY ELCONIN/REUTERS)People travel during the holiday season at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (credit: EMILY ELCONIN/REUTERS)

Administration officials say the issue has been under review but health officials have announced no changes.