U.S. health authorities on Feb. 7 said travelers to Israel and six additional countries are at “very high” risk from COVID-19, expanding a list that now includes more than 130 other nations.
The countries were added to a list that already included European nations like Austria and Belgium; African nations like Botswana and Niger; and Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
“Avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the agency says on its website.
Fully vaccinated refers to getting two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.
In specific country-by-country guidance, though, travelers are urged not just to be fully vaccinated, but to be “up to date” with COVID-19 vaccines before traveling.
According to federal health officials, up to date means getting a booster shot when one is eligible—currently five months following the second Moderna or Pfizer shot, or two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson one.
Even with boosters, people aren’t fully protected against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
“Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19,” the CDC says, recommending that anyone 2 years or older wear a mask while in indoor public spaces.
The “very high” category is the highest of five categories. The others are “unknown,” “low,” “moderate,” and “high.”
The CDC says its risk determinations come from analyzing the level of COVID-19 in a country and taking into account additional information such as vaccination rates and hospitalizations.
Some of the countries designated as “very high” risk, such as Israel, are among the most vaccinated in the world.
Vaccines were already waning over time against infection from the CCP virus when the Delta variant was dominant in many countries. The Omicron variant, which displaced Delta in late 2021 in the United States and elsewhere, is better able to evade protection from vaccines.
The CDC last elevated countries to the top category in January. At the time, the agency moved Anguilla, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, French Guiana, Kosovo, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, the Philippines, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Singapore.
Lowering a country’s risk level comes when that country’s COVID-19 case rate and testing metrics meet certain thresholds that the CDC developed.