CDC: avoid travel to Hong Kong, New Zealand and Thailand

Editor’s note — Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news on when destinations open and close, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.

(CNN) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday moved three high-profile destinations into its highest-risk Tier 4 category for travel.

Hong Kong and New Zealand have spent much of the pandemic in virtual isolation with relatively few infections and have been hailed as Covid success stories. However, the Omicron variant caused massive spikes in cases in both places.

Hong Kong is slow to play out a now familiar scene: near-full morgues, overwhelmed hospitals and supermarkets stripped bare by shoppers. Hong Kong has strictly restricted travel since the start of the pandemic and recently suspended many inbound international flights.
The spike comes in New Zealand just as it begins to move towards plans to open its borders to select international holidaymakers later this year. It has maintained some of the strictest isolation measures in the world during the pandemic.
Thailand joins these two countries, one of the crown jewels of global travel and Asia’s top source of tourism revenue in 2019. Thailand restarted its “Test & Go” program on February 1, which allows travelers vaccinated internationals from all countries to enter. without long quarantines.

The CDC places a destination at the risk level “Level 4: Covid-19 very high” when more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded in the last 28 days.

To recap, the destinations added to Tier 4 on March 7 are:

• Hong Kong
• New Zealand
• Thailand

All three destinations were previously listed at Level 3, considered “high” risk.

The number of cases worldwide has been falling since peaking in late January, but experts warn the pandemic is not over.

CDC: avoid Tier 4 destinations

London is an international tourist favorite and the UK’s largest city, which has been in Tier 4 since last summer.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

There are around 135 destinations currently in Tier 4. While the number of places in the “very high” risk category has fallen slightly since surpassing around 140 in February, there are still more places in the category. level 4 than in all the other categories combined. .

The CDC advises avoiding travel to Tier 4 countries. The CDC’s thresholds for travel health notices are based primarily on the number of Covid-19 cases in a destination.

The CDC does not include the United States in its advisory list, but it was color-coded to Level 4 on March 7 on the agency’s travel risk levels map.

Other favorites for tourists stuck in Tier 4 include Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Peru and Singapore. The UK has been there since July 2021.

In its broader travel guidelines, the CDC recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully immunized.

Changes at Level 3

Mexico, with Bahia Principe beach in Tulum pictured here, went from level 4 to level 3 on Monday.

Mexico, with Bahia Principe beach in Tulum pictured here, went from level 4 to level 3 on Monday.

Rodrigo Arangua/AFP via Getty Images

Tourists looking for news that go in the right direction will find it at this level.

The Tier 3 “high” risk category – which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 population in the past 28 days – saw six additions from various locations around the world on Monday. They were:

• Anguilla
• Green cap
• Fiji
• Mexico
• Philippines
• United Arab Emirates

All six were previously at Level 4. Mexico has remained open to tourists throughout the pandemic. There are no vaccination or test requirements to enter.

Levels 2, 1 and unknown

On Monday there was good news for people dreaming of a trip to Africa.

Destinations with the designation “Tier 2: Moderate Covid-19” have recorded 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population in the past 28 days. Nine destinations representing all sections of the continent moved to Tier 2 on March 7:

• Angola
• Djibouti
• Equatorial Guinea
• Ethiopia
• The Gambia
• Mauritania
• Mozambique
• Namibia
• Senegal

Last week, all of these destinations were at Level 3.

Africa continued to be a bright spot with the Tier 1 category as well, including popular safari and cultural favorite Kenya.

To be at “Level 1: Covid-19 low”, a destination must have registered fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 28 days. Eight places went to level 1 on Monday:

• Ivory Coast (Ivory Coast)
• Lesotho
• Nigeria
• Rwanda
• Republic of Congo
• Go
• Uganda

The only destinations now listed at Tier 1 outside of Africa are China and Taiwan.

Finally, there are destinations for which the CDC has an “unknown” risk due to lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places where war or unrest is going on. The CDC has no news additions to the category on Monday.

Tanzania, Cambodia, and Macao are some of the most visited places currently listed in the unknown category. The CDC advises against travel to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.

Medical expert weighs in on risk levels

Transmission rates are “a benchmark” for travelers’ personal risk calculations, according to CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“We are entering a phase of the pandemic where people have to make their own decisions based on their medical situation as well as their risk tolerance when it comes to contracting Covid-19,” Wen said in mid -February.

“You have to interpret level 4 to mean that it is a place with a lot of community transmission of Covid-19. So if you go there, you are more likely to contract the coronavirus,” said said Wen, who is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Some people will decide the risk is too high for them, Wen said. “Other people will say, ‘Because I’m vaccinated and boosted, I’m willing to take that risk.’

“So it really has to be a personal decision that people weigh knowing that right now the CDC is categorizing the different tiers based on community transmission rates, and basically just that,” Wen said. “They don’t take into account individual circumstances.”

Top image: An aerial view shows buildings in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels district on May 25, 2021. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

James C. Tibbs