The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday revised its guidelines for international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding 16 countries to its list of destinations where the risk of catching the disease is “very high.”
The following countries have been moved to the CDC’s “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High” list: Andorra, Curaçao, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Libya, Malta, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and US Virgin Islands.
The agency recommends people avoid traveling to the destinations on the list, while urging anyone who has to travel there to be fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Countries with more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days qualify for the “very high” travel risk category, according to the CDC’s parameters. The agency lowers the travel risk designation when the case count in a given country falls below a specified threshold and remains at that level for 28 consecutive days, though the CDC notes it may lower the level before that time if vaccination coverage rates and vaccine performance warrant such a move.
“Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalizations, and death,” the CDC said in an update to the Travel Health Notices portion of its website.
“Unvaccinated people should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever,” the CDC added, referring to the CCP virus strain that the agency considers to be more transmissible and potentially more resistant to vaccines.
The move to shift more countries into the higher risk category came on the same day that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases broke above last summer’s peak, while warning about the dangers of the Delta variant.
“The Delta variant is highly contagious,” Walensky said. “To put this in perspective, if you get sick with the Alpha variant, you could infect about two other unvaccinated people. If you get sick with the Delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people—more than twice as many as the original strain.”
Walensky also said that infections with the Delta variant result in higher viral loads, meaning that people infected with the strain have “a larger burden of virus that they can spread to others.”
She renewed calls for people to get vaccinated, saying that “this remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and that the vast majority of spread in the United States is among people who have not been inoculated against the CCP virus.
A recent COVID-19 outbreak in a Massachusetts county, however, was shown to primarily occur among the vaccinated.
Of the 469 cases detected in Barnstable County, 74 percent occurred among the fully vaccinated, according to a study published on July 30. The bulk of those infected did not require hospital care, but among the five that did, four were fully vaccinated.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.