US revises travel guidelines, moves Singapore to safest level

Many countries have better ratings now because their outbreaks are better controlled, said the CDC

WASHINGTON: The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has eased travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories, moving Singapore to its safest level and revising guidance on Japan just ahead of the Olympics.

The new ratings, posted on the CDC website on Monday, include 61 nations that were lowered from its highest Level 4 rating that discouraged all travel.

Another 50 countries and territories were lowered to Level 2 or Level 1, a CDC spokesman said on Tuesday.

The guidelines recommend all travellers to any destination to first be fully vaccinated.

The Level 3 rating advises all unvaccinated individuals against non-essential travel to those countries.

Level 2 states that unvaccinated individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid non-essential travel, while Level 1 - the rating for countries deemed the safest for travel - says anyone fully vaccinated can go.

Countries ranked lowest for Covid-19 risks now include Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Iceland, Belize and Albania.

Among those now listed at Level 3 are France, Ecuador, the Philippines, Malaysia, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Honduras, Hungary and Italy.

A US State Department official said it was in the process of revising its travel advisory to reflect the CDC changes.

As at Tuesday, the State Department had lowered its ratings on more than 90 countries and territories, including for Japan.

On May 24, the State Department urged against travel to Japan, citing a new wave of coronavirus cases before the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23.

The State Department warning raised concerns and prompted the White House to reaffirm its support for Tokyo's plan to hold the Games this summer and for US athletes competing there despite a new wave of infections and a low vaccination rate in the host country.

Foreign spectators have been banned and organisers are expected to make a decision late this month on domestic spectators.

The CDC said many countries had lower ratings "because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled".

The agency said it expects more countries to get lower, more favourable travel ratings.

Many of the countries that now have lower ratings remain on the US government's list of countries subject to severe travel restrictions - and most have been subject to the restrictions since early last year.

The US bars nearly all non-US citizens who have within the previous 14 days been to China, Britain, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, Iran and the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Britain to determine how best to safely restart travel, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Another US official said the administration would not move quickly to lift orders that bar people from much of the world from entering the United States because of the time it will take for the groups to do their work. - REUTERS