(CNN) — The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added 15 destinations to its “very high” risk list for covid-19, including several countries in Latin America and Caribbean islands.
The CDC places a destination at level 4, “very high” risk, when there are more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. The agency advises travelers to avoid traveling to Tier 4 countries.
The 15 places added this week, after the previous one added 22 countries, are:
– Costa Rica
– Dominican Republic
– San Bartolome
– San Martin
– United Arab Emirates
Caribbean island destinations (Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin) accounted for a third of new arrivals this week. Haiti, which is located on the island of Hispaniola next to the Dominican Republic, was already at Tier 4.
Other popular Caribbean destinations were also already at Tier 4. These include Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Two mainland countries with Caribbean coastlines, Costa Rica in Central America and Colombia in South America, are also at Tier 4.
Added to Level 4 this week were other top travel spots the CDC suggests travelers avoid: Peru, where Machu Picchu is located, and the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located.
Last week, 14 of the 15 destinations were at Level 3, which is considered “high” risk for covid-19.
Niger, a landlocked West African nation best known for its ancient caravan towns, had been in Tier 1, considered “low” risk.
The Tier 4 roster now has almost 120 spots. early january, there were around 80 destinations, further demonstrating the scope of the omicron variant.
You can view the CDC’s risk levels for global destinations on their travel recommendations page.
In its larger travel guide, the CDC has recommended avoiding all international travel until you are fully vaccinated.
situation in Europe
While most of the Caribbean is moving to Tier 4 this week, almost all of Europe has been there for weeks or months. Those places include some of the biggest names on the continent:
– United Kingdom
Romania is the only new European addition to Tier 4 this week.
Additions to level 3
The Tier 3 category, which applies to destinations that have had between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days, added 10 destinations this Monday:
– Equatorial Guinea
– Republic of Congo
Four of the destinations—Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa, Japan, Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, and Senegal in West Africa—had been at “low” risk level 1.
The remaining six had been at Level 2.
Levels 2, 1 and unknown
Destinations that carry the “Level 2: Moderate Covid-19” designation have recorded 50 to 99 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. That level had just two new additions this Monday.
These are Bangladesh, which had been in Tier 1, and the tiny sultanate of Brunei, which had been listed as “unknown” last week.
To be in “Tier 1: Low Covid-19”, a destination must have less than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. No new additions were made on Monday.
China, which will host the Winter Olympics in February, has been in Tier 1 since May 2021. It is one of a dozen destinations currently in Tier 1.
Finally, there are destinations to which the CDC assigns an “unknown” risk due to lack of information. Usually, but not always, these are small, remote places or places with ongoing wars or riots. There were no additions this week.
Popular destinations at “unknown” risk include Cambodia, French Polynesia and Tanzania. The CDC advises against traveling to these places precisely because the risks are unknown.
The CDC includes cruise ships in your destination list.
On December 30, the CDC increased the risk of cruise travel to Level 4 and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status. Cruisers remained at Tier 4 in the last update.
Meanwhile, the CDC covid-19 guidance has become optional for many cruisers.
The CDC Extended Conditional Navigation Order recently expired, and the agency has transitioned to a voluntary program for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters.
Transmission rates are important to consider when making travel decisions, but there are other factors to weigh as well, according to Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, ER Physician and Professor of Health Policy and Management. at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
“Transmission rates are a guide,” Wen said. “Another is what precautions are required and followed where you’re going and then the third is what you plan to do once you’re there.
“Do you plan to visit a lot of attractions and go to closed bars? That’s very different than going to a place where you plan to be on the beach all day and not interact with anyone else. Those are very different levels of risk.”
Vaccination is the most important safety factor for travel, as unvaccinated travelers are more likely to get sick and spread COVID-19 to others, Wen said.
He further said that people should wear a high-quality mask (N95, KN95, or KF94) whenever they are in crowded indoor settings with unknown vaccination status.
Before you travel, it’s also important to consider what you would do if you end up testing positive away from home, Wen said. Where will you be staying and how easy will it be to get tested to return home?